Let’s try it again.
The last time the Victoria Royals were scheduled to play in the U.S., in March of 2020, there was an inkling of what was to come when the upcoming game in Everett against the Silvertips was to be played with no fans in attendance. But before the Victoria club even got down there, it ended up being cancelled, along with the remainder of the Western Hockey League regular season and playoffs.
The Royals will, tonight in Spokane against the Chiefs, play their first game in the U.S. since skating in Portland against the Winterhawks on March 8, 2020. It begins a five-game road trip through the U.S. Division, continuing Wednesday in Tri-City, Friday in Seattle and Saturday in Portland.
“It’s kind of fitting since the last time we were on a U.S. road trip, it ended in Portland, as well,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.
Meanwhile, Price called it the “worst kept secret in the WHL” that Campbell Arnold will get the start tonight in goal for the Royals. The Nanaimo product, who had been with the Chiefs since 2017, was traded to Victoria in October for a third round selection in the 2023 WHL prospects draft. The Royals other goaltender, Tyler Palmer, was also drafted by Spokane before being picked up as a free agent and signed by Victoria.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, seem set in goal now with six-foot-five 2022 NHL draft-ranked Mason Beaupit, the Surrey native named WHL goaltender of the week as Spokane earned three of a possible four points in a two-game set against the Kelowna Rockets.
Victoria’s games in Spokane and Tri-City are also early-season crucial tests at the foot of the Western Conference table in that the Chiefs (4-10-3 for 11 points) and Americans (4-11-2 for 10 points) are among the teams the Royals (3-11-2 for 8 points) will need to target in order to slip into a playoff position.
Victoria has won its past two games, with points in four of its last five contests, and has a game in hand on both Spokane and Tri-City. Price said that shows his squad is coming around.
“October was an anomaly with only 54 per cent of our roster players available because of injuries,” he said.
“Now we’re up to 75 per cent roster strength and that’s more reasonable.”
The Royals, by sweeping their next two games, would overtake both the Chiefs and Americans. But don’t look for his players to be table gazing, said Price: “Our leadership group keeps the younger players mindful that all that’s at stake in the moment is that game, and that period, in which you are playing.”