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Victoria Royals set for tough task against visiting Thunderbirds

Matt O’Dette was a tough defenceman to get past when the Fresno Falcons and later Stockton Thunder would come into the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to take on the Victoria Salmon Kings in the pro ECHL.
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Matt O’Dette was a tough defenceman to get past when the Fresno Falcons and later Stockton Thunder would come into the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to take on the Victoria Salmon Kings in the pro ECHL.

Now, however, O’Dette returns to the Memorial Centre tonight and Saturday helming a high-pitched offence as head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. The Thunderbirds (25-11-5) recorded 7-2 and 7-2 victories in their last two games against the Vancouver Giants and Prince George Cougars.

“Yeah, it’s nice to score goals. I think we’ve got guys who, at any moment, can break the game open which is a nice luxury to have,” said O’Dette, in a statement.

Hoping to blunt that attack, and also arrest a 14-game winless streak, will be the host Victoria Royals (12-26-5).

“The Thunderbirds have a really similar style to B.C. Division teams,” said Royals head coach Dan Price.

“They have good size, can skate, and can get pucks to the net.”

The Royals received an unexpected jolt in the standings when the Tri-City Americans upset the Canadian Hockey League national No. 6-ranked Kamloops Blazers 4-3 on Wednesday night to halt a nine-game Kamloops winning streak and leap over Victoria into the eighth and final playoff slot in the Western Conference. The Americans are one point ahead of the ninth-place Royals with a game in hand. The 10th place Spokane Chiefs, who fired head coach Adam Maglio on Thursday, are one point behind Victoria with a game in hand.

“We don’t watch the standings because there are so many games [25 for the Royals] left to play,” said Price.

“It’s hard to do the math at this point. The sixth through 10th places are still very much to be decided.”

The Royals received some encouraging news on the injury and COVID protocol fronts with captain Tarun Fizer, goaltender Tyler Palmer and defenceman Anson McMaster listed as good to go this weekend against the Thunderbirds.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com