Patrik Polivka is not letting his current opportunity get away.
The Victoria Royals goalie has been in net for the past four wins though he won’t take the credit, at least not all of it.
He earned a 26-save shutout in the Royals’ 5-0 win on Saturday and will likely get the start against the Tri City Americans in Kennewick on Friday night.
“The compete level for the team has changed. They’re doing a better job in the games, they’re blocking shots, great job in the defensive zone. It’s team defence, it’s not just me,” Polivka said.
The 19-year-old Czech import earned the majority of the starts last year and this year but when he was pulled on Nov. 6 in a 5-0 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings, Coleman Vollrath started and won three of the next four. Though Vollrath only gave up two goals in the Royals 3-1 loss on Nov. 16 to the Seattle Thunderbirds, the net was given back to Polivka in Kamloops on Tuesday (Nov. 19). The Royals won 2-1 and Polivka was named the first star for stopping 42 shots.
He named the first star in the three games since, as the Royals (17-10-0-1) have jumped to fifth place in the Western Conference standings, four points up on the Tri City Americans.
“It’s tough to take (Polvika) out of the net when he’s going in as the first star from three straight games,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry on Monday.
“The whole thing now is it doesn’t matter for us who’s in the net. They’ve both gone into tough buildings and won games and our group is confident in each one of those guys.”
For Vollrath, it was beating the Seattle Thunderbirds (13-9-1-3) and Portland Winterhawks (18-5-2-1) in back-to-back nights Nov. 15 and 16.
For Polivka, it was Wednesday, when the Royals went into Kelowna and won 4-1 over the Rockets. That win is standing out as the biggest of the Royals’ seven wins in the past eight games.
“Winning against Kelowna was unreal, they’re a top team in the country,” Polivka said.
“That is a game you know your team is going to be prepared for and it was great for our team to go into the third period tied (1-1) and find a way to win the game,” Lowry said.
While the goaltending battle is one of the easiest areas to credit during the recent winning streak there is also the matter of the Royals’ offensive explosion, popping 11 goals on the Blazers in two games this weekend. And there’s more, as 16-year-old Tyler Soy scored the first goal of the game on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Blazers and Rockets, then scored two more against the Blazers on Saturday.
Meanwhile the defence has made up for the loss of 17-year-old Joe Hicketts, who was playing at least half the game when he went down injured, and 20-year-old Jordan Fransoo, who won’t be back for another four weeks.
“We’re missing some top guys especially in defence but I think our young guys stepped up and are doing a really good job,” Polivka said.
Ryan Gagnon, 17, might have taken on the most minutes in the absence of Hicketts and Fransoo while Keegan Kanzig continues to play a tonne of minutes, as does Brett Cote.
Rookie Chaz Reddekopp, 16, is now seeing regular minutes while 18-year-olds Isaac Schacher and Jake Kohlhauser have increased roles as well.