Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
February 17, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Royals hosted their first ever “Hockey Hooky” day on Tuesday, with a 12:00 Noon weekday start and given the outcome, it may be their last. The Royals gave up two quick goals and trailed 3-0 before ultimately dropping a 4-3 decision to the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors in WHL action at Save on Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria.
Moose Jaw’s Spenser Jensen (14) and Victoria’s Tyler Soy (17) battle for a loose puck (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
With a good chunk of the announced 3,592 fans in attendance made up of school children enjoying a day off, it seemed that it was the Royals who were playing hooky, failing to show up for the first two minutes of the game. In that span, the Warriors Jack Rodewald (with his 26th) and former Royal Axel Blomqvist (with his 22nd) beat former Warrior Justin Paulic twice to give the visitors a quick 2-0 lead.
Victoria’s Alex Forsberg (16) turns to watch a rebound durig this scoring chance in Tuesday’s action against Moose Jaw (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
While the Royals stepped things up a bit after that, an early second period goal just 1:53 into the period from Tanner Eberle, his 30th of the season, put the Warriors up 3-0 and created a hole for the Royals that was just too deep to dig out of.
Moose Jaw goaltender Zach Sawchenko (31) covers up a rebound before Victoria’s Tyler Soy (17) can get to it during third period action Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals fans in attendance did get some hope later in the second period when Regan Nagy (at 6:05) and Brandon Fushimi (at 17:18) closed the gap to 3-2, but a rebound goal by Jiri Smejkal at the 10:42 mark of the third period restored the Warriors two goal lead.
Moose Jaw’s Tanner Eberle would score his 30th goal of the season to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead early in the second period Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Once again though, the Royals kept battling and Alex Forsberg scored his 24th of the season at the 13:57 mark and the Royals had once again pulled within one. On that goal, the Royals Austin Carroll earned an assist to give him the most points in a season (68) in Royals history, bettering the 67 points by Brandon Magee last season and by Jamie Crooks in 2011-2012.
Victoria’s Dante Hannoun (19) gets a shot away before the poke check by Moose Jaw’s Austin Adam (29) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals did pull Paulic late in the game, but to no avail and when a last second shot by Tyler Soy sailed wide of the net, the Warriors escaped with the afternoon victory.
Warriors goaltender Zach Sawchenko got the start between the pipes and he finished with 26 saves on 29 shots to earn his 14th win of the season. Paulic, facing his old teammates for the first time since being traded, stopped 21 of 25 in the losing effort.
A pair of 18s, the Royals’ Brandon Magee (right) and Moose Jaw’s Jaimen Yakubowski (left) chase after a loose puck at the side of the Warriors net during third period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals were playing their fourth game in the last five nights, but to Royals Head Coach Dave Lowry, that was no excuse. “We were also a tired team in Seattle on Sunday,” said Lowry, “but in that game we came out and got the start we wanted. Today we did not do that. They did and that pretty much made the difference in the game.”
Moose Jaw’s Dustin Perillat (4) looks to make a pass under pressure from the Royals Logan Fisher (20) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals now gear up for a feature series of the season, as they will entertain the Kelowna Rockets for a pair of games this Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game time is listed as a 7:30 pm start while Saturday’s game is the usual 7:05 pm start. The Rockets are tied with the Brandon Wheat Kings for top spot in the WHL, both with 92 points.