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Victoria Royals humbled in home opener by Prince George Cougars

Cougars won 11-2 to spoil Victoria’s home opener in the most glaring way possible.
Victoria Royals goaltender Braden Holt looks for the puck amid a mass of players in Friday’s game against the Prince George Cougars. It was the Royals’ WHL home-opener at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Just a few days ago, forward Riley Heidt of the Prince George Cougars and defencemen Kalem Parker of the Victoria Royals were skating together in the NHL training camp of the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild draft picks, Heidt was taken in the second round and Parker in the sixth round this year, were on opposite sides Friday night as both were returned to junior in the Western Hockey League. Heidt got the upper hand at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with two goals and three assists as the Cougars won 11-2 to spoil Victoria’s home opener in the most glaring way possible before 4,422 fans.

That was without the Cougars having Koehn Ziemmer, a third round draft pick of the Kings, who is still with Los Angeles in the NHL pre-season.

The Cougars moved to 2-1 while the Royals dropped to 0-3 after there was optimism that this season would be different after Victoria finished last in the 2021 bubble season and missed the playoffs in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Prince George goaltender Ty Young returned to the Memorial Centre after skating on Blanshard in the training camp of the Vancouver Canucks last weekend, where we was signed to an NHL entry-level contract. Young needed to make only 16 saves to take the win Friday in his return to the WHL.

Veteran 20-year-old Royals starter Braden Holt, meanwhile, was chased from the net in the second period after allowing six goals on 16 shots before being replaced by rookie Jayden Kraus as Prince George outshot Victoria 36-18.

Four of Prince George’s goals were on the power play as an old Royals failing – lack of discipline – came back to haunt. Another Prince George goal came just after a Royals penalty had ended and was essentially a power-play goal. This after Victoria head coach Dan Price said “killing so many penalties was a huge focus this week.”

Special keys were a deficit for Victoria on many levels. Not only did its power play go 1-4 on the night for 1-13 on the season, but the Royals gave up two short-handed goals against the Cougars.

“We worked on the power play all week,” said Price, before the game.

“A lot of it has to do with rhythm and chemistry.”

That was not to be found on Friday night, despite the first odd-man goal of the season for Victoria, delivered by blueliner Nate Misskey, who was in the NHL rookie camp of the Edmonton Oilers.

Veteran forward Tanner Scott scored Victoria’s other goal. Terik Parascak led Prince George with four goals and two assists.

Prince George named 20-year-old veteran blueliner Hudson Thornton as their captain before the game with forwards Heidt, Ziemmer and WHL player-of-the-week Zac Funk as assistant captains of this loaded Cougars squad.

The Victoria captainship remains a question mark with San Jose-signed defenceman Gannon Laroque still with the Sharks in the NHL pre-season ahead of a decision whether to return him to junior in Victoria or place him with the pro AHL-affiliate Barracuda.

ICE CHIPS: The teams meet again tonight at the ­Memorial Centre on Truth and ­Reconciliation Night … The ­Cougars skated at the old ­Memorial Arena on Blanshard as the Victoria ­Cougars from 1971-72 to 1993-94.

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