Story and photographs by Glenn Ivens (www.javalon.smugmug.com)
The Victoria Royals inaugural season came to an end on Wednesday night after a 4-1 loss to the Kamloops Blazers at Save On Foods Memorial Center.
The Royals who put up a valiant effort where unable to overcome the powerful Blazers squad who outscored them 22-11 in the 4 game series and now move on to the 2nd round for the first time since the 1998 – 1999 season.
General Manager and Coach Marc Habscheid commented on the series and the first season in Victoria, “They deserved to win, I liked our compete level but I think we ran out of gas in the 3rd. It has been a unique season, but for the most part it went pretty smooth. We had a plan in place, to get young, and we did that, our youth gained a lot of experience, and basically we return the whole team next year.”
The Royals came out of the gate flying and capitalized early when Ben Walker came out of the corner and picked up a rebound off a Logan Nelson shot and walked around Blazer’s goaltender Cole Cheveldave and deposited the puck in the open net.
Victoria’s Ben Walker walks around Kamloops’ Cole Cheveldave to open the scoring just over a minute into the 1st period. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
The teams continued to battle hard with both Cheveldave and Victoria’s Keith Hamilton having to make some acrobatic saves.
Kamloops’ Tyler Hansen was given two minutes for hitting from behind on this play while Victoria’s Steven Hodges was somehow assessed two minutes for embellishment. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
The Blazers were able to tie the game at 1-1 when Matt Needham fired a knuckleball from the top of the right faceoff circle that eluded Hamilton and found the back of the net. The teams went into the break knotted at 1-1 with Victoria holding the edge in shots 11-6.
Second periods have not been kind to the Royals and their woes continued tonight.
Blazers’ Brendan Ranford tallied the game winning goal on a breakaway as Tyler Stahl dives in attempt to knock puck away. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
Blazer’s Jordan DePape found a streaking Brendan Ranford who made no mistake in burying a shot on the breakaway to give the Blazers a 2-1 lead. The Blazers would add an insurance marker just over half way through the period when Dylan Willick took a pass from Brandon Herrod and rang a shot off the post and into the net.
Kamloops’ Cole Cheveldave left few holes in his defence of the Blazers net on Wednesday night. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
The Royals continued to press but were unable to find a way to beat Cheveldave and headed into the 2nd intermission trailing by 2. The Royals again held the edge in shots 12-7.
The 3rd period saw the Royals go on the power play twice but they were unable to capitalize and a late empty net goal by Willick sealed their fate.
Royals’ Jesse Zgraggen lets go a slapshot during Wednesday’s Playoff matchup with Kamloops Blazers at Save On Foods Memorial Center. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
Despite unmasking Kamloops’ Cole Cheveldave the Royals were only able to find the back of the net once in a 4-1 loss. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
Hamilton kicked aside 21 of 25 shots while Cheveldave had to be sharp in stopping 30 of 31.
The Royals saluted their loyal fans and in return were treated to a standing ovation as their inaugural season in Victoria came to a close.
The Royals team salute their loyal fans after Wednesday’s game against the Kamloops Blazers. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
It was a bitter sweet night for Hayden Rintoul and Robin Soudek as both 20 year olds saw their WHL careers come to an end.
“It has been a lot of fun to play here with the fans and I couldn’t ask for a better place to play my last year” stated Rintoul after the game.
Hayden Rintoul carries the puck up ice for one of the last times on Wednesday night as his Junior hockey career comes to a close. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
Soudek was somewhat emotional leaving the ice for the last time, saying “I had tears in my ice, it’s not fun but it is life and now it’s time to move on.”
When asked about the retiring players Habscheid remarked “It’s tough on them, their seniors now and it’s a shock, its reality, your junior careers over and you don’t really know where you’re going or what’s ahead of you and it’s a little scary. We try to preach loyalty here in Victoria and they know they have friends in Victoria and we’ll help them whenever we can.”
Hopefully Royals fans can look forward to seeing alot more of the Hodges – Walker combination next season. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
It is safe to say that the Royals aren’t happy their season is over but overall it has been a success and the future looks bright for the franchise with a large number of talented players returning next season.
Kamloops’ Brendan Ranford earned 1st star honors with his game winning goal while teammate Dylan Willick was named 2nd star after scoring a pair and Victoria’s Ben Walker earned the 3rd star selection with his goal. Also of note was Blazer’s Brandon Herrod with 3 assists on the night.
To view more images from this game pleae visit my ISN Gallery.