Christopher Kelsall/Special to Victoria News
The Kamloops Blazers (2-0) and Victoria Royals (1-2) faced off for the first of two back-to-back games on Tuesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. The close 3-2 score was not indicative of the number of shots fired at Royals goaltender Tyler Palmer.
Palmer has kept the Royals in each of the past three games.
The Royals came on late and scored two, third-period goals to come back from a 3-0 deficit, so, it looks good in the game summary but in the end, it was too little too late.
“That’s on me as a coach,” said Dan Price. “I will take the blame for that. I need to have the players ready for each game. We talked about that in the dressing room. You can blame me for the slow starts.”
Little was happening until 4:17 of the first period when what appeared to be a harmless play turned into a one-goal deficit. The puck jumped off a defender’s stick from a Dylan Sydor wrist shot. As it fluttered, 19-year-old Slovakian import, Marko Stracha, batted it out of the air and over the right shoulder of Royals goaltender Tyler Palmer. Tye Spencer earned the second assist on the play.
The Royals have let in the first goal in all four games this season.
While Gannon Laroque served a slashing penalty assessed at 7:57 of the first, the Blazers were all over the Royals and missed on several scoring opportunities. However, at the tail end of the powerplay, Brayden Schuurman, the WHL Player of the Week, took off on a two-on-one and chose to fire a hard wrist shot, but Kamloops goaltender Dylan Garand made a sharp, glove-hand save.
On the next shift, Schuurman had a partial breakaway but was foiled by a sliding defender deep in the Rocket’s end.
At 18:45 of the first, Blazers player Matthew Seminoff came out from behind the net and went backhand on Palmer’s stick side. It was the 17-year-old Coquitlam native’s first goal of the season. Daylan Kuefler and Logan Baros earned assists on the play.
By the end of the second period, the Blazers had fired 32 shots on the goaltender. But he is ready to suit up for Wednesday’s game. “Oh yeah, I am ready to suit up for tomorrow night’s game for sure,” he said when asked about playing 24 hours after taking 42 shots — and approximately 60 attempts.
Surrey native, Caedan Bankier, scored on the powerplay at 10:18 of the second period. It was Royals player Kalem Parker who was assessed for a cross-checking penalty even though it was a teammate who ended up on the ice helmetless and covering up for protection during a melee. Bankier, a third-year 18-year-old, came into his own during the lockout season collecting 23 points in 22 games.
Royals, despite being given five penalties, while getting almost no powerplay time (16 seconds), made a game of it during the third period by scoring twice – Bailey Peach with his first of the season at 7:20 and Wyatt Wilson at 11:17.
Peach, who was picked up from the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on waivers — a brand new rule — is grateful for the second opportunity. Prior to this season, acquisitions were limited to within each league, WHL, OHL and QMJHL, respectively. “Yes, I am happy for the opportunity and I am going to make the best of it. It’s a beautiful city. It’s a long way from home, but I am happy to be playing for the Royals.”
On the Peach goal, Schuurman added another point to his season total.
Kamloops has six players who attended NHL training camps this pre-season. Quinn Schmiemann will return after this two-game set, as he has been at the Tampa Bay Lightning camp. The Lightning drafted the Wilcox, Sask. native in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft and 182nd overall. The Royals continue to play without Captain Tarun Fizer who was attending the Colorado Avalanche training camp and is now assigned to the Colorado Eagles of the AHL. He may be out for up to half the Royals’ season.
The Royals play Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the Blazers. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
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