Christopher Kelsall/Special to Victoria News
The Victoria Royals hosted the Tri-City Americans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for the annual Teddy Bear Toss and game 1 of their two-game weekend set on Friday. The Royals prevailed with a 3-2 overtime win.
Both teams ended win streaks in their previous games.
On Tuesday, the Royals lost 5-4 to the Kelowna Rockets in overtime and then 3-0 to the Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday. The Americans lost 7-1 to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday. The last time the Americans and Royals met was on Dec. 1., with the Royals winning in overtime 4-3.
Friday, it was Bailey Peach who stepped up knowing that once again the Royals have several injuries, including Colorado Avalanche draft pick Tarun Fizer. Peach earned the first star of the night and was clearly the best player between the two teams.
“I knew that several players were out and I know that I had to step up my game, but I think the guys played well around me too,” said Peach, who is in his final year with the league.
Asked if Peach is getting scouted by the pros, coach Dan Price said “absolutely, he is going to be a pro player one day. You saw that he was the best player on the ice tonight.”
He scored twice, set up the winner, and had several other glorious opportunities too.
At 13:23, Peach broke down the left side, cut laterally to the slot, toe-dragging the puck. He fired a hard-wrister past goaltender Tomas Suchanek for his 10th of the season.
The ice was then littered with teddy bears causing a 10-minute delay for a good cause. The 3,952 in attendance may have thrown as many bears on the ice for the holiday season. Unfortunately for all games in January, new provincial health orders will limit attendance to half capacity which is just over 3,500.
“It’s great to do that, I love the teddy bear toss. You know, take a few pictures to take the focus off the game for a minute. I think it is great,” said Royals goaltender Campbell Arnold. Arnold, from Nanaimo, grew up watching the Royals. He was likely the second-best player between the two teams, and he earned the second star on the night for stopping 40 of 42 shots.
For Peach, he is having a renaissance season. The 20-year-old is experiencing his final chance to demonstrate his skills and as of late is doing a masterful job. He is the first beneficiary of a new CHL rule that a player can become a free agent during their final season and play in any of the three leagues that make up the CHL.
Last year the Falmouth, N.S. native played for the QMJHL Charlottetown Islanders.
With 58 seconds left in the first, Peach picked up the puck in traffic, fought through a few bodies, and fired the puck from the wrong side of the goal line. The shot deflected off Suchanek’s mask and into the net for his second unassisted goal of the period.
The second period was all Americans. And because the Americans carried much of the play, they earned three powerplay opportunities before the Royals got a call going their way. However, the man advantage was only for 1:12, as it overlapped an Americans’ powerplay.
Tyson Greenway scored his third of the season at 13:36 for the only goal of the second period. The goal got the Americans to within one of Victoria. After two periods the shot totals were 29-16 for the Americans. Arnold was standing on his head.
At 5:16 of the third, Mark Lajoie — on a delayed penalty call against the Royals — scored with a howitzer of a wrist shot that slipped just under the bar and past Arnold to tie the game up.
With 2:56 remaining in the game, Peach took a high sticking penalty, but the Royals killed it and attacked the Americans’ zone with reckless abandon.
Tanner Scott, Peach, and Evan Patrician all came close to scoring. Scott, while on a partial breakaway, had a wide-open net but the puck was fluttering in the air and he didn’t make contact.
During overtime, the Americans carried the play out-shooting the Royals 4-1. With 36 seconds remaining in overtime, Brayden Schuurman received a pass to the side of the net from Peach. He didn’t get everything on the shot and the off-speed movement of the puck fooled the American goaltender.
The Royals were out-shot 42-25, the Royals went 0 for 2 on the man advantage, while the Americans went 0 for 4. The two teams meet again Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
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