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.
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.