Major junior hockey fans, mark Friday, Sept. 21 on your calendar.
That’s when the Victoria Royals kick off their 2018-19 regular season in the Western Hockey League, against B.C. Division opponent, the Prince George Cougars, on home ice at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
The Royals announced the schedule for their eighth WHL season on Tuesday, and it includes nine games against the Cougars, an equal number against Kamloops and eight versus Kelowna. Not surprisingly, Victoria’s most frequent opponent this regular season, with 10 games, is the arch-rival Vancouver Giants – who were defeated by the Royals in the opening round of the 2017-18 playoffs.
Victoria may well be led again by team captain, last year’s leading scorer and Calgary Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, one of a number of 1998-born players to end the season with the club. League rules permit just three overage players per team, of which Phillips would be one if the Flames sent him back to junior for another season.
The club’s longest homestand of the new season arrives in October when the Royals play six straight games at Save-On; two each against the Giants and Kelowna and one each against WHL champion Swift Current and the Brandon Wheat Kings.
And on the road, the Royals’ six-gamer in late December and early January – while the World Junior Championships are on in Victoria and Vancouver – is the longest and includes their only six games of the season against teams from the Central Division.
For a look at the full schedule, visit bit.ly/2KaKoK9.
Top draft pick signs on dotted line
The Royals’ first round selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam draft, Victoria’s Nolan Bentham (13th overall), is officially in the fold, after signing a WHL standard player agreement with the team earlier this month. The 15-year-old defenceman played last season with Yale Academy of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.