The Victoria Royals hosted the Prince George Cougars Saturday for the second time in two nights. It was also the fourth of six in a row between the B.C. Division rivals. They see each other an unprecedented 14 times this season.
The Royals limped into the game with injuries to 10 regulars. They dressed three first-time Royals including goaltender Campbell Arnold who hails from Nanaimo.
The game got off to a brisk start with both teams having offensive zone time, however, it was the Cougars who opened the scoring.
Swiss product Lieket Reichle put the puck up over the left shoulder, and glove-side of Arnold at 5:48 of the first. Assists were awarded to Jaren Brinson and Koehn Ziemmer. Arnold needed to be strong in net to give regular Tyler Palmer a much-needed rest after he stood on his head during the first eight games of the season.
Arnold, acquired from the Spokane Chiefs, is into his fifth season in the WHL. During the first period, he made several outstanding point-blank saves. “I was pretty excited to come here. I am from the Island, up in Nanaimo and I grew up watching the Royals. I even get to wear number 35, which is the number I wore in Nanaimo,” said Arnold about his first game in Victoria. “I was pretty excited when I heard I was moving here.” Asked what sort of load he is willing to take for the rest of the season, he said, “whatever they throw at me I will take. But I am 19, I don’t have that much time left in the league, so, I am looking to get a chance to play regularly here.”
The Royals’ Achilles heel so far this season has been their powerplay, going 0/5 Friday, they are sitting in 18th place in the 22-team league at 11.9 per cent. Saturday, they scored at 9:19 on the man advantage to tie the game at one apiece. Royals left winger Carter Briltz, scored his first WHL goal. Kalem Parker and Jason Spizawka were awarded assists on the play.
The right-handed defencemen Parker fired a wrist shot from the left point and Biltz, standing in the slot redirected the puck going short side while Ziemmer was off for a check to the head.
The Royals played perhaps their best second period of the season. The score remained tied at one apiece until there was a moment at 16:30 in that middle frame when a miscommunication around the Royals net left Arnold stranded with two Cougars and the puck redirecting off the end board to the front of the net. Fourth-liner Blake Eastman, an 18-year-old from Alberta scored his second of the season on the play.
“Those are preventable,” said head coach Dan Price. “That something that we can work on. If that goal didn’t happen, and we scored, who knows, it could have been a completely different outcome.”
The visitors would get the insurance goal with 5:33 remaining. Ziemmer scored from Craig Armstrong to put the game out of reach. An empty netter was added at 18:37 by Connor Bowie.
The Royals record now drops to 1-8-0 and 0-4 against the Cougars this season. They play again Tuesday and Wednesday at the CN Centre in Prince George.
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