Walker hopes to return as Royals seek redemption against Giants
Ben Walker is on the verge of returning to the Victoria Royals.
As of Tuesday the concussed forward’s symptoms had diminshed. If they held off through to today (Jan. 25), then he’ll likely be back with the team for tonight’s and tomorrow’s games versus the Vancouver Giants at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
Walker hasn’t played with the Royals since Jan. 2 when he suffered the injury against the Kelowna Rockets.
In that time the Royals have turned their fortunes around and are 6-3, chasing down fourth spot in the Western Conference. That includes a five-game win streak, three of which came against division rival Kamloops Blazers. The Royals have also won without Logan Nelson, who's been out since Dec. 28, and Jamie Crooks, who has been injured since Jan. 15, missing the past three.
“The first couple games I missed (in early January) there was a couple of bad losses, so I was a little worried about the guys," Walker said. "Then they started winning so I thought 'oh, well, guess they don’t need me to win.' But it’s nice to see them playing really well and hopefully they keep it up.”
Make no bones about it, Walker is anxious to get back in the game. He's been back in practice, but is tired of wearing the yellow non-contact jersey, same as Crooks.
Even with the Royals current win streak, no one has climbed closer to Walker’s team leading plus-minus of plus-20. The next closest are captain Tyler Stahl and assistant captain Brandon Magee at plus-seven.
“It’s always been my number one stat, more important than points and the one that I look at first after every game,” Walker said.
“If I end the night in the minus column, even if I get three points, it’s a bad night for me. If I get scored on it just kills me. I want to get five back.”
Last year Walker ended up a plus-2 despite the team’s struggles. He was the only player to finish with a positive, with some as low as -40.
“It’s really every part of the ice I’m in. Since bantam, I had a coach who said defence creates offence. This is a game you have to play in all three zones because this league is full of guys who can score on you.”
Before his injury Walker was on a line with Alex Gogolev and Austin Carroll. With Gogolev’s recent splurge in points, 12 in his past four games, that spot might be hard to come by.
This week Gogolev was named the CHL player of the week. Steven Hodges also could have won that award, connecting for eight goals through some magic chemistry with Gogolev.
Pink in the Rink
Saturday (Jan. 26) is the annual Pink in the Rink fundraiser for breast cancer at Memorial Centre.
It won’t be the first time Brandon Magee wears a pink Royals sweater but it means a lot more to him this time around.
“My aunt was diagnosed in the summer, and she’s been going through it, so it touches home and you realize how serious it is,” Magee said.
“It should be a fun night, hopefully we raise a lot through jersey auctions.”
The Giants were last here on Dec. 5 and the results was one-sided, a 7-2 win for the visitors.
“They came in and beat us pretty good, so it would be great to redeem ourselves this weekend and make it a seven-game win streak,” Magee said.