Blazers explode for victory over Victoria Royals

It was 1960s Night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with the Victoria Royals wearing jerseys patterned on black-and-white TV. It was, however, anything but a Bonanza for the home side on Wednesday.

It’s not as if the Royals ­channeled their inner Gilligan, either, in an 8-3 Western Hockey League loss to Kamloops before 1,805 fans. The Blazers are undefeated (4-0) and an honourable mention in the Canadian Hockey League top-10 poll. They are a veteran and thoroughly talented group.

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The Royals are much younger, hard-working and put in a full shift every night. But the cruel reality of sports is the ­standings don’t care and record only actual wins, not moral victories. ­Victoria had five consecutive home games to start the season, a perfect opportunity to bank early points that come in handy later in the season, but went 1-4.

The Blazers, who won 3-2 on Tuesday, concluded their first sweep of a two-game set in ­Victoria since 2011.

The Blazers gave New York Rangers-prospect goaltender Dylan Garand of Langford, the likely lead goaltender for Canada in the 2022 world junior championship, the night off.

Kamloops back-up Dylan Ernst made 29 saves and was especially sharp in blocking 14 of them in the first period as Victoria pressed in keeping with coach Dan Price’s plan of ­starting strongly after going down 3-0 in Tuesday’s loss. But it was Kamloops forward ­Caedan Bankier’s power-play goal that stood as the lone goal of the opening frame. Another odd-man counter by Fraser Minten made it 2-0 at 3:40 of the second period.

The Royals got a power-play goal of their own at 6:11 through a Bailey Peach goal that was the 20-year-old’s 200th point in major-junior hockey. It was slapped home off a pass by Swiss world junior player Keanu Derungs, his second of two assists on the night. The game of dueling power plays continued with Minnesota Wild third-round NHL draft pick Bankier scoring his second of the night for the Blazers at 11:31.

That was followed by two even-strength goals by Josh ­Pillar of Kamloops and emerging Victoria threat Brayden Schuurman’s sixth goal of the season. The Blazers opened the third period on Bankier’s hat-trick goal, on a five-point night, and a Dylan Sydor goal to chase starting Royals goaltender Sebastian Wraneschitz out in favour of Connor Martin.

Two Kamloops goals by ­Daylan Kuefler and one by Riley Gannon of the Royals mopped things up in garbage time.

The Blazers outshot the ­Royals 40-32.

A healthy diet of Cougar is probably just what the ­Royals need in their situation and they will get it with six consecutive games against winless Prince George (0-3), ­beginning ­Saturday and Sunday in ­Northern B.C.

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