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For the second night in a row, the Victoria Royals faced the Kamloops Blazers at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. The Royals defeated the Blazers 4-2 in the first game. Game two saw a 5-1 win for the Royals, which means that the team opened the 2015-2016 season with a franchise record four consecutive wins. During the game, the Royals would set a second franchise record, thanks to one of three assists by defenseman Joe Hicketts.
For game two, it was expected that the Blazers would come out strong during the first period of play, after showing some late game toughness the previous night, where they dominated the Royals for the final five to six minutes of play; however, they did not get out to a strong start.
The Blazers appeared to grip their sticks and played with less confidence than the Royals, as the home team kept sustained pressure in the Blazers’ end, capped by a couple of glorious scoring opportunities. During the first power play of the game the Royals forced the Blazers goalie Connor Ingram to make tremendous saves including a beauty on a high rising wrister that forced a spectacular glove-hand save.
The Royals did score moments later on a long two-on-one where Matthew Phillips carried the puck down the left side using streaking Tyler Soy as a distraction. Soy was the previous night’s first star of the game, with his two goals. Phillips shot and this time he put the puck over Ingram’s glove hand, into the top right corner.
The Royals scored again, which was started by a very heavy hit against the glass by Reddekopp in his own end, which turned the play up ice where Regan Nagy scored his second goal of the season from Jared Dmytriw and Logan Fisher at 19:33. The Blazers didn’t leave the ice easily, as some rough play ensued after the buzzer sounded.
Early in the second period the Blazers had some sustained pressure on the Royals, but to no avail. The Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath was forced to make several excellent stops including a breakaway wrister that he turned harmlessly aside. The break-a-way seemed to energize the Blazers who scored on the next rush off of a broken play on a wrist shot by Nick Chyzowski from Spencer Bast and Nolan Kneen, but that would prove to be all they could muster.
Royals returned the favour by scoring on the power play at the 14:16 mark to make the score 3-1 on a goal by Tyler Soy for his third in two games. The Soy goal required great hand-eye dexterity as he batted the puck out of the air from a deflected Jack Walker pass which was assisted by Hicketts, who started the play. Walker displayed nifty stickhandling throughout the game and was rewarded for his efforts on this goal, as was Joe Hicketts who set the Royals/Chilliwack Bruins franchise record for assists by a defenceman.
The previous record was held by Brandon Manning with 91 career assists in 200 games; Hicketts earned two last night to tie Manning and is now the record holder with 92. Hicketts set the record in just 170 games.
Throughout the night Chaz Reddekopp threw his weight around, pasting Blazers against the glass and landing solid open ice hits to effectively interrupt any flow that they tried to establish.
Coach Dave Lowry said, “That’s what we expect of him. If he wants to be an NHL player, he needs to be a better player.”
Forsberg added to his point scoring streak of three games in a row, to four by getting a power play goal on a solid 10-foot snap shot from the left side of the net. The goal was assisted by Walker and Hicketts to make the score 4-1, putting the Blazers in a deep deficit.
When asked if the players are gripping the stick a little, a frustrated Blazer’s General Manager Craig Bonner said, “Well it is the veterans who are not playing that well.” Asked if he meant for that particular game or the season, he replied, “From the get-go, all season, so far.”
With 9:43 remaining in the game the Royals bore down on Ingram with a three-on-one rush and nearly scored again, with frustration starting to show, each play around the goal ended with players threatening to square off.
Shortly after Ingram made yet another spectacular save on the Royals 27th shot of the game Vollrath was forced to do the same on back-to back-shots, which helped him earn second star honours for the game.
Royals picked up steam in the final few minutes and scored a beautiful goal, where Walker batted a deflected puck out of the air into the back of the net. Again, the goal required good hand-eye coordination as the puck bounced off the glass after a powerful slap shot from Hicketts from the blueline, for his third assist of the night. Vladimir Bobylev got the second assist.
The Royals next game takes place at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the visiting Spokane Chiefs.
Watch for post game reaction later tonight from Dave Lowry, Jack Walker and Joe Hicketts.