Royals split weekend matches with interior rival

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You win some, you lose some.  The glass is half full. Taking one game at a time. These clichés all apply to the weekend series the Victoria Royals played at home against provincial rival and number eight ranked Kamloops Blazers in WHL action.

The Royals won Friday 4-3 in a shootout but were shutout 3-0 on Sunday in a pair of early-season matches that highlighted the Royals are a team with a lot of potential and a lot to work on.

The Friday tilt saw the Royals down 2-0 after one period but the Royals worked their way back into the game and tied it up early in the third.  They took the lead before letting in a late goal forcing the game into overtime and then the shootout.  The Friday game, in front of 4447 fans, was one where the two teams were evenly matched even though the shots were 37-24 in favour of the home team.

Making the difference for the Royals was Czech goalie Patrik Polivka.  His patient and technically sound goaltending helped keep the game in check despite a defense that was turning the puck over due to a fierce Kamloops fore-check.

Victoria forward Logan Nelson scored the only goal in the shootout.  Going in with speed, Nelson deked and put the shot up and over the right shoulder of the Kamloops keeper.

Nelson and Royals defenseman Brett Cote each scored their first goal of the season in regulation time, with Nelson’s tying the game at two.

Russian sniper Alex Gogolev had what would have been his second game winning goal of the season had the lead held up, but the late goal by Montreal third-round draft pick Tim Bozon tied the game for the Blazers.  Bozon looks every bit worth the high pick as he dominated the ice all weekend.

Sunday’s game was Victoria’s poorest of the early season.  They were unable to sustain offense and their sloppy defense cost them a 3-0 loss.  The Blazers outshot the Royals 39-22 as they responded well to Kamloops coach, Guy Charron’s message that Friday’s effort was not good enough.

While Victoria came out strong and had some thunderous hits in the first few minutes of the game, it was Kamloops who opened the scoring with Cole Ully’s third of the season, beating a screened Victoria goalie Jared Rathjen making his first start of the season.

In the second frame Kamloops added their second goal. The Blazers dominated the middle period outshooting the Royals 16-6.  The goal was scored on a lovely breakaway when Rob Trzonkowski took a great pass from his winger Aaron Macklin.  Goaltender Cole Cheveldave picked up the second assist.

The second period showed Victoria fans the hard-working and tireless pursuit of the puck that Kamloops has become known for.  Their aggressive fore-check proved problematic as the Royals defense could not break out of their own zone and were frequently turning the puck over resulting in several shots on net.

The Royals came out hard to start the third but when Kamloops’ assistant captain Colin Smith scored his second of the season, it seemed to be the nail in the coffin for the Royals.  A power play for the Royals with less than six minutes remaining might have been able to get the Royals back in the game, but the Blazers persistent pressure kept the Royals from getting quality chances.

After the game, Royals coach Dave Lowry was circumspective about the shutout loss after Friday’s emotional shootout win.  “We got exactly what we expected from them.  We knew they were going to come, they were going to have a push.  They didn’t surprise us, we just didn’t execute the way we wanted to today.”

In reference to the team’s early success, he added that, “Not a lot of people thought we’d be here  (3 wins and 1 loss) and if you told us at the beginning of the season we’d be 3 and 1, ya we’d be happy.”

The Royals next home game is Wednesday against the Medicine Hat Tigers.  Game time is 7:05.  The team then heads off for a three games in three nights weekend trip to Spokane, Tri-City and Vancouver.  All Royals games can be heard live on The Zone 91.3 on the FM dial.

For tickets or more information visit www.victoriaroyals.com or call 250.220.7889

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