For the second straight season the Victoria Royals will face the Kamloops Blazers in the opening round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
The Blazers will finish third in the Western Conference, setting up the first-round playoff series with the sixth-place Royals. Last year the Blazers swept the Royals in four games.
The Royals will host Games 3 and 4, and 6, if necessary, at Bear Mountain Arena as the Ford Men’s World Curling Championships take place at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Full schedule below.
The Royals ended its 11-game losing streak on Friday with a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Giants. The Giants bounced back on Saturday with a 3-1 win.
It’s all part of an up-and-down season for the Royals, which played the Portland Winterhawks at home Sunday (March 10).
Injuries hit the Royals hard during the slump, namely to team MVP Alex Gogolev (lower body). There’s good news for Gogolev however as he’s listed as day-to-day, flagging a likely return for playoffs.
Taylor Crunk (lower body), Trent Lofthouse (upper body) and Tyler Stahl are listed as temporary and should return soon. There is no immediate timeline, however, for Logan Fisher (upper body) and Luke Harrison (upper body).
A little over a month ago the Royals owned home advantage for the playoffs, as the fourth place team in the Western Conference. It would have been the franchises’ first time hosting the opening round of the playoffs. It also looked like the Royals would avoid the West’s big three of Portland, Kelowna and Kamloops.
Regardless, making the playoffs is first and foremost for the Royals, a team building around its core of 16 and 17 year olds Jack Walker, Joe Hicketts, Keegan Kanzig, Brandon Fushimi, Logan Fisher, Kolton Dixon and Ryan Gagnon, as well as blue-chip 15 year olds, Tyler Soy and Chaz Reddekopp, who played his first game with the Royals wearing No. 29 versus the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday.
The Kelowna Rockets ended the Blazers hopes of repeating as B.C. division champions over the weekend, winning 2-1 in Kelowna on Saturday (March 9) and 3-2 in Kamloops on Friday.
Marring the Royals’ past week was a four-line entry in the WHL’s discipline book, including a $1,500 fine for the team’s conduct versus the Kamloops Blazers on Tuesday (March 5), a 6-0 loss.
Tim Traber is the only player still suspended, as he is serving six games for an incident with Kale Kessy. The suspension was made worse for Traber because had come on for a line change when he went after Kessy. Traber will return for the final regular season game, March 16 at Everett.
Coach Dave Lowry was suspended for one game, which he served versus the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday, a 4-3 shootout loss. Keegan Kanzig missed two games, the Rockets on Wednesday and Giants on Friday, for a fighting instigator in which the opponent did not fight back.
Playoffs begin the week of March 17.
In eight meetings this year the Blazers (4-2-2) won outright in four games, while the Royals (4-4-0) won twice in regulation and twice in a shootout.
2012-13 Season SeriesVictoria 4-3 (SO)Kamloops 3-0Kamloops 5-2Kamloops 5-2Victoria 6-4Victoria 3-2 (SO)Victoria 5-4Kamloops 6-0
– with files from Kamloops this Week
Friday, March 22nd Victoria @ Kamloops 7:00 p.m.Saturday, March 23rd Victoria @ Kamloops 7:00 p.m.Tuesday, March 26th Kamloops @ Victoria (Bear Mountain Arena) 7:05 p.m.Thursday, March 28th Kamloops @ Victoria (Bear Mountain Arena) 7:05 p.m.Saturday, March 30th Victoria @ Kamloops 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)Monday, April 1st Kamloops @ Victoria (Bear Mountain Arena) 7:05 p.m. (if necessary)Wednesday, April 3rd Victoria @ Kamloops 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)