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Victoria Royals take reeling road show into Prince George

Victoria faces the Cougars on Friday and Saturday
The Royals and Cougars will battle again this weekend in Prince George. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST)

It’s not quite the ­epically- ­infamous five-win ­1989-90 Victoria Cougars season in the Western Hockey League. It was part of the Cougars’ five consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs before being moved to Prince George for the 1994-95 WHL season.

Perhaps it’s only fitting the Victoria Royals are in Prince George tonight and Saturday to play the Cougars. The Royals are teetering on another historically low period for Victoria teams in the WHL. The Royals will miss the playoffs for a second successive season. It would have been three consecutive but the season previous to that was played in a bubble with no playoffs. The Royals placed dead last in that.

Their current 15 wins are the least in a full season since last year’s 23 victories. That includes the five seasons the franchise played as the Chilliwack Bruins before moving to the Island as the Royals in 2011-12. Last year’s dismal season now actually seems like a bonanza. At least the Royals took it to the final game of the regular season before losing out on the playoffs. They were eliminated this season long before that, with three excruciating weeks to play out before the misery finally ends with the games this weekend in Prince George and a home-and-home set next weekend against the Everett Silvertips. The Royals can only hope the final four games turn out better than Wednesday’s spirit-crushing 11-1 loss in Kamloops to the Blazers.

That’s what is most troubling about the Royals. This team, with largely the same roster as last year, has actually regressed. The team can blame the injuries but last year’s team had injuries, too.

The Royals will get another lottery spot in the WHL prospects draft this season and can only hope they land another bright prospect as they appear to have with last year’s third-overall selection Cole Reschny. Prince George was once in this position and landed the touted Cougars pair of Koehn Ziemmer and Riley Heidt, the fourth and second selections overall, back-to-back as lottery picks in the 2019 and 2020 WHL drafts. Ziemmer and Heidt are now ranked as the 20th and 26th ranked North American skaters, respectively, for the 2023 NHL draft.

Reschny, 15, was named rookie of the year and first-team all-star in the top Under-18 league in Saskatchewan with 65 points in 34 games. Reschny also scored five goals with six points in six games in leading his home province to the silver medal in the recent Canada Winter Games in P.E.I. Another Royals’ prospect, Grant Reid, captained B.C. to fourth place in the Canada Games

“It’s too early to say they will be like Heidt and Ziemmer, but they are one day going to be two-thirds of a line and the core of our team,” Royals GM and head coach Price said.

Victoria will be looking for the third member of that future line as a lottery pick in this year’s WHL prospects draft.

Cougars forward and WHL second-leading point-getter Chase Wheatcroft, meanwhile, has terrorized the Royals this season with 18 points on nine goals and nine assists in seven games against Victoria.

The Cougars (34-24-6) are also tough in the net with Tyler ­Brennan, a fourth-round NHL draft pick of the New ­Jersey Devils, and Ty Young, a ­fifth-round draft pick of the ­Vancouver Canucks.

The Royals are winless this season against the Cougars at 0-6-1.

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