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Tanner Kaspick. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

You never know when you are going to need that empty net goal.

The new look Victoria Royals (23-16-3-1) hosted the Kamloops Blazers (18-20-1-2) for game one of their two-game weekend set Friday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre and just barely managed to win by the score of 6-5.

Asked if he thought the new players played the type of hockey he was expecting, Coach Dan Price said, “yeah, very much so. I thought the play was fast. I thought it was physical. Kamloops plays that way too. It was nice to see our team, to a man, play that way as well.”

Price wasn’t completely satisfied saying that there are some lessons to be learned from the game and, “they will need to continue to push for the win and not let up and we need to lock some things down to keep control of the game.”

The Royals opened the scoring early at 1:21 on the powerplay. Dante Hannoun was handed a goal-side pass from Matthew Phillips. Tanner Kaspick earned the second assist on the play; it was his first point in his first Royals game.

Hannoun and Phillips combined again at 2:32, this time on the rush, as Tyler Soy dished the puck through the slot to Phillips who handed it to a streaking Hannoun who went five-hole for his 16th.

On the goal, Soy took the all-time franchise record for assists by a Royals player with 152 in 296 games, surpassing Brandon Magee who took 318 games to reach that number.

“I thought we came out strong. I thought we were keeping it simple and getting pucks on the net and it worked. We let up a little to start the second, but we got there in the end,” shared Hannoun.

“We need more bodies to the net and more shots on the net.”

Against the flow of play, Jermaine Loewen scored his 16th of the season at 5:39 for Kamloops. Montana Onyebuchi and Connor Zary assisted. It was like a shooting gallery for the Royals; Outhouse may have been left too long without action.

Lane Zablocki, picked up two days before in a trade with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, had his debut last just 7:39, as he was assessed a Game Misconduct for hitting-from-behind on Blazers player Montana Onyebuchi. Onyebuchi went after Zablocki and was assessed a two-minute roughing minor.

Igor Martynov, back in the line-up after playing in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships for Belarus, scored at 14:37 on a scrambled goal-mouth play. Jeff de Witt and Andrei Grishakov assisted on the play. Martynov got an ovation from the 4,798 fans in attendance when he was congratulated by public address announcer Cliff LeQuesne for his international play.

Dante Hannount. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Hannoun was denied a first period hat-trick by goaltender Dylan Ferguson. On the powerplay, Phillips again slipped Hannoun a pass after buzzing the Kamloops net.

The second period was very different from the first, where the Royals were outshot 16-8, after outshooting the Blazers 23-4 in the opening frame.

The action was contained primarily to the Royals’ end with the Blazers scoring twice to tie the game up. At 4:13 and 10:36 Orrin Centazzo and Carson Denomie scored.

The teams went to the dressing rooms with the game tied 3-3.

To open the third period, the Royals put in two quick goals, one from defenceman Jeff Prowse with his fifth. The goal was unassisted. De Witt scored, getting his sixth from defencemen Jared Freadrich and Chaz Reddekopp.

It was de Witt’s second goal as a Royal, in the five games played for his new team.

At 12:00 Luke Smith scored his 10th goal of the season on the powerplay. The goal came almost directly off of the faceoff and went over the shoulder of Outhouse, who was screened by Loewen on the play.

Kaspick scored his 13th of the season into the empty net and his first as Royals player. Ralph Jarratt assisted. The two-goal lead was restored.

With 18 seconds remaining, the Blazers, who wouldn’t go away, scored on a scrambled play in front of Griffen Outhouse; Loewen scored his second of the game from Joe Gatenby and Smith.

Asked about his new team and moving away from his hometown and the Brandon Wheat Kings Kaspick said, “I is an adjustment. Obviously, it was tough to leave there. But I am excited to play out the duration here and settle in. There is a lot of talent on this team; especially with those three guys down low (Phillips, Soy and Hannoun). People seem really nice here and I am looking to enjoy the city.”

Matthew Phillips checking Dylan Ferguson. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall


Royals – Griffen Outhouse (W) – 60:00 Mins, 23 saves on 28 shots

Kamloops – Dylan Ferguson (L) – 58:59 Mins, 40 saves on 45 shots

Power Play:

Royals – 2/5=40.0%

Kamloops – 2/4=50.0%

Puck drop for Saturday’s game is 7:05 pm.

EXTRAS: Royals’ president and general manager Cam Hope spent much of December and early January re-tooling the team with talent, size, grit and experience to support the talented core. What appeared to prompt a deadline day (Jan. 10) spree of trades was new acquisition Noah Gregor – a very talented offensive forward – who went down with an injury four games into his Royals season. He was picked up from the Moose Jaw Warriors in December.

The San Jose Sharks fourth round (2016) picked up 39 points in 34 games before going down with a wrist injury.

Seven players (including Gregor) have played six or fewer games in a Royals uniform, while centre Tanner Kaspick and right winger Lane Zablocki debuted Friday.

Zablocki, acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on deadline day, January 10th is a Detroit Red Wings third-round draft pick from 2017. The Wetaskiwin, AB native has 25 points in 40 games so far this season. He started the year in Red Deer, however, was traded after 31 games to Lethbridge.

Kaspick was traded from his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings on the 10th, he is a St. Louis Blues 2016 fourth-round pick who has accumulated 37 points in 35 games so far this season.

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