Christopher Kelsall/Special to Victoria News
It was ‘Way Back Wednesday’ at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. The Victoria Royals wore black and white uniforms ala black and white television of the 1950s and 1960s. It was an era that happened decades before the players were born. Nostalgia didn’t serve youth against the veteran line-up of the defending B.C. champion Kamloops Blazers.
Minnesota Wild’s 2021 third-round pick (86th overall) 18-year-old Caeden Bankier put on an offensive clinic for the 1,805 spectators in attendance. He scored a hat trick and picked up five points to lead the Blazers to an 8-3 drubbing of the Royals.
The Royals needing to have a strong start mustered the most aggressive first period of their young season. They were throwing hits, dishing crisp passes, and were skating strong. The home squad appeared to be a different team during the first 6:40 until rookie goaltender Sebastian Wraneschitz handled the puck outside of the trapezoid.
“That’s a teachable moment,” said Coach Dan Price. “That’s an error where I need to do a better job of teaching, making sure we are clear on that area of the ice, with those rules, and how we deal with that and I promise that will get corrected.”
The Blazers wasted little time in executing on the ensuing man advantage – 20 seconds in fact. Bankier fired the puck five-hole on Wraneschitz from deep in the slot. North Vancouver native Mats Lindgren earned the only assist on the play.
Price promised a fast start and the Royals did just that.
They pressed again and drew a penalty. During that powerplay, Ty Yoder, who was manning the blueline, wristed the puck into the feet of a Blazers forward who was off to the races. Yoder was penalized for hooking on the play, which ended the Royals powerplay.
For the first time this season, the Royals outshot an opponent in the opening frame 14-13.
“They had three powerplay goals on four opportunities. There were some breakdowns in our end and those are teachable moments. Kamloops made errors too and that is how we scored,” said Price. “So that is the game of hockey. The mistakes happen on both sides. The coach’s responsibility is to make sure that the ones that are controllable do not happen. So that is my responsibility.”
Five goals were scored during the second period, three by Kamloops, two on the powerplay. Goal scorers were Fraser Minten at 3:40, Bankier, with his second of the game and fourth of the season at 11:31, and Josh Pillar from Bankier and Logan Stankoven. Bailey Peach scored his second in two games at 6:11 on the powerplay. He later picked up an assist.
“Not the outcome that we wanted tonight, but I am happier with my play, that’s for sure,” said Peach.
Asked about the young team around him, Peach said, “As a 20-year-old you have to be a bit of a leader and that is what I came here to do. I am here to try to help the younger guys on the team. And like I said, I don’t think it was the outcome we wanted tonight, but we played a pretty solid game overall.”
Brayden Schuurman with his sixth of the season at 15:49 continues his breakout season. He was named WHL Player of the Week last week for his five-goal Thanksgiving weekend.
Just to make sure the Blazers kept the momentum going into the third period, Bankier completed the hat trick at 39 seconds in. He went five-hole on Wraneschitz while on a partial breakaway. Wraneschitz was pulled at 5:50 of the third. Connor Martin came in and stopped eight of 10 shots in relief.
Daryl Sydor added his first marker of the season at 5:50 of the third to put the Blazers up 6-2. Bankier earned his fifth point on the night on Sydor’s goal. Daylan Kuefler scored twice at 12:33 and 15:56 of the third.
“It was a very teachable moment tonight. One great thing is we have a real interesting and important and exciting segment coming up against the Prince George Cougars. Six games in a row, two here, two there and two back here again. It will be like a playoff series. I am really looking forward to that challenge.”
The Royals were outshot 40-32 and went 1/5 on the main advantage.
The Royals pay a visit to the Prince George Cougars Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 and 18 at the CN Centre. The two teams will return to Victoria Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22 and 23. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. both nights.
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