It’s the Kamloops team nicknamed Blazers, but it’s the Victoria Royals who are truly blazing.
Victoria remained undefeated at 4-0, dropping winless Kamloops to 0-4, with a 5-1 Western Hockey League victory Saturday night before 4,101 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. It is the best start in the 10-season history of the Royals franchise, dating back to when it was known as the Chilliwack Bruins.
The youthful Royals, not considered an elite pre-season pick by prognosticators, and the Red Deer Rebels are the only two remaining teams in the league with perfect 1.000 winning percentages.
“The guys took exception to [the media notion] that this is a rebuild . . . they have lots of pride,” said Victoria head coach Dave Lowry.
Joe Hicketts had three assists, with the first of those historic. The Detroit Red Wings-signed 2015 world junior championships gold medallist broke the franchise record for most assists by a defenceman and has 94 in 170 games. Hicketts overtook Brandon Manning, who had 91 assists in 200 games when the franchise was located in Chilliwack.
Hicketts (118) is now stalking Manning (136) for the franchise record for most points by a blueliner. Manning, who graduated from junior in 2010-11, the season before the franchise moved to the Island, has played 21 NHL games for Philadelphia but has spent most of his post-Chilliwack career in the Flyers minor-pro system.
“This has been a real fun start,” said Hicketts, who is a native of Kamloops.
“I don’t think about the personal accolades. I’ve been able to adapt to Dave’s system. It’s more getting off to this start that keeps this so enjoyable. With a lot of new guys in the line-up this season, we’re trying to keep it simple. We have a real team concept. There’s not the age separation as in the last couple of years.”
Victoria went 2-4 on the power play on goals by Tyler Soy and Alex Forsberg.
Other goals came from Matthew Phillips, Regan Nagy and Jack Walker, the latter who finished with three points.
“Coming in, I don’t even think we thought we would be this [4-0], either,” said Walker, who has been a leading light, among several, of the early season.
Nick Chyzowski was the only Kamloops shooter to beat Coleman Vollrath, who made 25 saves in goal for Victoria.
The result moved Vollrath into a tie with Czech import Patrik Polivka for the most wins by a goaltender (56) since the franchise moved to the Island.
Vollrath is now four behind the franchise record 60 held by Lucas Gore, who went from Chilliwack to play for the University of Regina and upon graduation last spring made his pro debut with seven games for the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL.
Connor Ingram, who was in the training camp of the Detroit Red Wings, made 30 saves for Kamloops. The Royals complete
their six-game season-opening home stand on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Spokane Chiefs.
ICE CHIPS: Freshly-graduated Royals forward Brandon Magee, who holds the franchise records for points, assists and games, has signed an AHL contract with the Texas Stars . . . Former Royals forward Luke Harrison is a 20-year-old with the Blazers.