Almost unimaginable a month ago, the Victoria Salmon Kings have a chance to pull even in the Western Conference with the Bakersfield Condors as the two teams play a three-game series this week.
Game one against the Condors is tomorrow night, 7:05 p.m. at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
After sweeping the visiting Utah Grizzlies 6-2 and 6-5 on the weekend, the Kings have now won eight of their last 11 games (26-27-3). Despite their recent success the Kings have yet to move up from seventh-place in the standings, due to their early season woes.
Now with 13 games remaining, the Kings can finally make some noise, facing the next team up in the standings. Bakersfield are no easy task, however, coming off a three-game win streak.
Last Friday against Utah, the Kings were the better team when the puck dropped. The effort helped Victoria right their ship after dropping two games in a row the week before in California.
“In Stockton we had some breakdowns we hadn’t seen (for a month),” winger Matt Butcher said. “So we were ready to get back on track (against Utah).”
Butcher scored Friday’s first goal of the game, but Victoria natives and former Saanich Braves players Paul and Tim Crowder evened it up for the Grizzlies with Paul scoring on a pass from Tim.
In the second, the Grizzlies came out hard and nearly took the lead, but Victoria goalie David Shantz stood his ground. Butcher scored again, the first of four straight from the Salmon Kings in Friday’s second period. Rick Cleaver also scored two goals as the Grizzlies looked demoralized in the third.
“We bent but didn’t break,” Butcher said. “The puck just seemed to come to me (Friday).”
Saturday was a new game, however, and the Grizzlies responded, matching the Kings with five goals apiece.
Victoria eventually won in the shootout. The Kings first two shooters scored – Cleaver beat Utah goalie Tamio Stehrenberger blocker side. Milan Gajic then placed a shot between the legs of Stehrenberger.
Backup goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu stopped all three Utah shooters. It was Beckford-Tseu’s first win in five starts as a King.
Here to heat up
Last Thursday the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat announced signing Ryan MacMurchy from the Salmon Kings to a player try out. MacMurchy spent the weekend with the Fraser Valley club.
It was one of a series of roster moves as the Heat assigned three players the other way, two going to their affiliate Utah Grizzlies while Bryan Cameron joined the Salmon Kings. On contract to the Calgary Flames, Cameron scored Friday and Saturday night for Victoria, filling the offensive gap left by MacMurchy.