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Victoria Royals look to break into win column against powerhouse Blazers

It’s like going from a boiling coffee pot into a scalding cauldron.
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It’s like going from a boiling coffee pot into a scalding cauldron.

The Victoria Royals’ quest for their first victory, or even first point of the Western Hockey League season, will get more daunting tonight and Saturday against the Canadian Hockey League No. 5-ranked Kamloops Blazers.

The Blazers had six players in NHL training camps. The ­Royals receive at least a little mercy with defending WHL and CHL player of the year Logan Stankoven still with the Dallas Stars, second-round Toronto draft pick Fraser Minten with the Maple Leafs and Daylan Kuefler still with the New York Islanders. The bad news for Victoria is that Caedan Bankier and Kyle Masters have returned from the Minnesota Wild and Matthew Seminoff from the Stars.

With the biggest question yet to be answered as Kamloops readies to host the 2023 Memorial Cup national major-junior championship tournament — will starry goaltender Dylan Garand of Langford, who won gold with Canada at the 2022 world junior championship with Stankoven, be returned to the Blazers as a 20-year-old or will the New York Rangers place him in the AHL to begin his pro career? The guy probably most interested in that answer is Dylan Ernst, who has been Garand’s understudy in the Kamloops crease the last two seasons, and by now is feeling ready to step up to the main role.

The Royals, meanwhile, are a long way from having to worry about those kinds of heady issues. They will be happy just to score a goal after being shutout back-to-back 4-0 and 3-0 by the Everett Silvertips and Kelowna Rockets. Victoria (0-5) has just one goal in its last three games.

“This is a great challenge and what better time than this to breakout and rise to the moment,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.

“Our players are positive and no one is feeling sorry for themselves. There is a difference between playing well and not playing well. We have competed hard and had our chances, but have not finished lately around the net. It’s right there. We just have to take it one period at a time.”

Victoria is without its two best players. Forward Brayden Schuurman was hurt in the NHL rookie camp of the Boston Bruins and Victoria captain Gannon Laroque, signed to an NHL entry-level contract by the San Jose Sharks, is also out with injury. Schuurman is back skating but unlikely to play this weekend in Kamloops. Price said there is no clear timeline on Laroque.

The Royals return from their five-game road swing to host the Rockets on Tuesday and Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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