Victoria Royals make statement in win over Lethbridge

The emergency alarm inadvertently went off early in the second period Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. It seemed only fitting because the Victoria Royals are on fire. The Royals won their fourth consecutive game with a 3-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes before 5,598 delighted fans.

The Royals defeated one of the top teams in the Western Hockey League in what could be a statement game for their young season.

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Victoria (10-7-1) faced former Royals forwards D-Jay Jerome and Dino Kambeitz and gained bragging rights. But it wasn’t easy as Victoria built a 3-0 first-period lead and then barely held on, thanks mainly to the heroic 39-save goaltending of Shane Farkas.

You couldn’t pick a tougher WHL location from which to get to Victoria from than Prince Albert, Sask. But Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens and defenceman Calen Addison, who both played Thursday night at Prince Albert for Team WHL in the shootout victory over the Russian juniors, made it here for Friday’s game.

Cozens, selected seventh overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres, and 2018 second-round Pittsburgh Penguins pick Addison could have used the excuse of being drained by so much hockey and travel. But they didn’t, least of all Cozens, who scored both goals for Lethbridge (13-6-3).

Power-play goals by Kaid Oliver and Gary Haden keyed Victoria’s three-goal first-period lead. Oliver has three goals and six points in his last four games. Haden, meanwhile, had a two-point night. Ty Yoder scored the other Victoria goal. Defenceman Will Warm had two assists for Victoria as the 20-year-old again anchored the blueline.

The biggest threat to Victoria’s lead came when defenceman Jacob Herauf was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing at 18:51 of the second period, which was followed by a cross-checking penalty to defenceman Mitchell Prowse as the middle period ended.

Cozens scored on the ensuing two-man advantage with his 14th goal of the season. His 15th came later in the third period, setting up a hairy ending as the Hurricanes stormed the Victoria net in the final two minutes only to be held at bay by Farkas.

The result helped reverse a bit a peculiar Royals season trend. Victoria is 8-2 against clubs in the tough B.C. Division but 2-5-1 against teams out of the division.

The Royals are in Kelowna to play the Rockets on Wednesday before returning to face the Edmonton Oil Kings next Friday.

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