© Copyright – 2015 – Victoria Sports News
The Victoria Royals entered tonight’s game undefeated with a 4-0-0-0 record, which is a franchise best start. They took on the Spokane Chiefs in the first of two, back-to-back games against their WHL Western Conference rivals at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
During the first period the Royals had the edge in play. The fourth line stepped up and created several scoring opportunities including one created from a hard Keith Anderson hit in the corner to the left of the Chiefs goaltender Tyson Verhelst. The hit created a turnover and a scoring opportunity for Ryan Peckford, who was ultimately denied. Coach Dave Lowry put the line back out two shifts later and again they created solid scoring opportunities and kept sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
When asked about getting contributions from all lines Coach Dave Lowry said, “Yes I think that everyone contributed tonight, there was offense generated by all four lines and that’s what we are going to need this season.”
The Chiefs’ Riley Whittingham threw a dirty hit in the corner to the left of Vollrath and received a charging penalty, but the Royals’ power play, although it maintained pressure, did not score.
In the second period the Chiefs opened the scoring on a broken play where Vollrath was caught out of his net and the Chiefs capitalized at the 2:23 mark with a goal by Hudson Elyniuk from Kaller Yamamoto.
Royals were right back at it, hemming the Chiefs in their own end, eventually drawing a penalty and scoring on that power play. Dante Hannoun took a pass from defenseman Chaz Reddekopp, streaked in on the right-hand side and let fly a powerful, rising wrist shot that found the top-right corner, to tie the score 1-1.
The Chiefs came back against the flow of the play with seconds left in the second frame. Markson Bechold took a pass from Yamamoto and spun in front of a Royals defender, feet from the crease and slid a shot under the pads of Vollrath. Yamamoto earned his second assist of the game on that goal.
Late in the second Whittingham would pay for his earlier hit to the head when Logan Fisher got the better of him in a fight that landed him a bloody nose.
The third period started with the Chiefs having the edge in play; however, with less than three minutes gone in the period, the Chiefs took an interference penalty. Again, the resulting Royals power play was denied.
One shift after their power play, the Royals again hemmed the Chiefs in their own zone and had several excellent scoring opportunities including a ringer off the crossbar. The first line of Jack Walker, Alex Forsberg and Vladimir Bobylev came out flying in the the period, with Walker covering the entire length of the ice while demonstrating quickness in his skating and stick-handling ability. It was the most dominant shift of the game to that point for the high-flying line that led the WHL in scoring during the first four games of the season.
In the final 10 minutes of the game the Royals completely dominated the Chiefs, with several highlight reel opportunities. The foray was broken momentarily by Yamamoto who nearly scored on a backhander, but was denied by Vollrath.
The Chiefs slid an empty netter into the Royals goal to put the score out of reach (3-1) and hand the Royals a fate that they did not deserve, as they were the superior team, especially throughout the third period.
With 3.8 seconds left the Royals were denied on the finest stop of the game, with a glove hand save to put an exclamation point on a goaltending performance., which would earn Verhelst first star of the game honours.
The Royals’ Joe Hicketts threw virtually everything at the Chiefs’ net-minder. On the weekend he set a franchise record against the Kamloops Blazers by accumulating the most career assists for a defenseman with 94 in 170 games, while the former record holder was Brandon Manning who had 91 assists over his 200-game WHL career. Hicketts and Reddekopp dominated the second half of the third period, keeping the Chiefs in their own end for extended periods of time.
Royals’ goaltender Coleman Vollrath played well outside of getting caught out of his crease once, which resulted in the first Chiefs goal. Earlier in the week he earned CHL goaltender of the week honours when he tied Patrick Polivka for most wins in a Royals uniform with 56.
Also, the previous week Royal’s forward Alex Forsberg earned WHL and CHL Player of the Week honours. Forsberg earned seven points in two games and had nine entering tonight’s game.
The two teams return to action tomorrow night with puck drop scheduled for 7:05 PM at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.