There were no Spartans, as in the movie, but 300 turned into a good plot point for the Victoria Royals on Saturday night.
The Royals, playing the 300th regular-season home game since the franchise came to the Island in 2011-12, recorded a 3-1 WHL victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds that moved their overall record at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to 179-98-23.
River Fahey scored the ninth Teddy Bear Toss goal in Royals history, which launched an avalanche of stuffed toy animals onto the ice for charity from the 6,633 fans. It came at 3:21 of the first period as only once has the Bear Toss goal not been scored in the opening frame.
The Campbell River-product Fahey joined a varied array of past Bear Toss goal scorers for the Royals. They include Eric Florchuk (now with the Saskatoon Blades) and Austin Carroll (now with the pro Kassel Huskies in Germany) twice each, D-Jay Jerome (now with the Lethbridge Hurricanes), Ethan Price (last with Brock University), Axel Blomqvist (last with pro Pantern IK in Sweden) and Zane Jones (last with the Evansville Thunderbolts of the Southern Pro League).
Fahey’s goal tied the game 1-1 before two second-period goals by Brandon Cutler, the first off a clever backhand and the latter on the power play, gave Victoria a 3-1 lead.
Philadelphia Flyers draft-pick Roddy Ross started in goal for Seattle but was chased from the crease after letting Cutler’s second goal in through the wickets. Victoria’s Shane Farkas, excellent all season doing what you expect 20-year-old goaltenders to do, let in Seattle’s first shot at just 20 seconds by Henrik Rybinski before stopping the next 31 in another fine performance.
The Royals were down the equivalent of a full line with Sean Gulka and Kaid Oliver out with injuries and captain Phillip Schultz with Denmark at the IIHF Tier II junior championships in Belarus. The Thunderbirds were also without their captain as Matthew Wedman was traded to Kelowna on Thursday, severing the last player connection to the 2017 team that won Seattle’s only WHL championship in the 43-year history of the franchise.
The Royals moved to 15-9-2 while the Thunderbirds fell to 9-15-3.
Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette should perhaps have his name engraved on the Memorial Centre visitors’ bench. He was on it during seven seasons as a pro defenceman with the Fresno Falcons and Stockton Thunder against the Victoria Salmon Kings in the ECHL, and has been behind it since 2013, as either assistant or head coach of the Thunderbirds.
Another guy who no doubt spent time in the Memorial Centre, watching older brother Joe Hicketts star with the Royals from 2012-13 to 2015-16, is Matt Hicketts, who refereed Saturday’s game.