Christopher Kelsall/Special to Victoria News
It’s going to be a feisty 13-game regular-season series between the Victoria Royals and the Kelowna Rockets if game one is any indication. Is a bitter rivalry in the offing?
The Royals hosted the Rockets at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre Friday and, as expected, the WHL B.C. Division rivals played with fiery emotion.
The game got off to a raucous start when the Royals’ Bailey Peach took a four-minute, double-minor for kneeing penalty at 39 seconds — ouch. The visitors, a little tentative, had trouble mounting an attack during the prolonged man-advantage, which provided the Royals with great confidence.
However, Minnesota Wild 2020 fifth-round draft pick Pavel Novak from Tabor, Czech Republic opened the scoring with an even-strength marker at 9:03 of the first. The 19-year-old Czech import found himself with a wide-open net after Rockets forward Noah Dorey’s shot popped out from Royals goaltender Tyler Palmer’s pads, who ended up splayed in the crease. Novak would score again with 34 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Royals, seeking their first goal of the season — after losing their season opener 5-0 to the Vancouver Giants — finally found momentum late in the period. At 17:41, on a scrambled net-front play, 17-year-old Canora, Sask native, Carter Dereniwsky, tied the game when he pocketed a greaser from the doorstep. This time, it was the Rockets’ goaltender, Cole Schwebius, who laid prone in the crease.
To quote Wayne Gretzky, “At the end of the season, they don’t ask how, they ask how many.”
Abbotsford native Brayden Schuurman scored a pair during the second period to break the game wide open for the Royals. The home team went on a rampage and scored four unanswered second period goals. Anthony Wilson and Riley Gannon netted the other two during that plucky middle frame.
Schuurman completed his first WHL hat trick with an empty-net goal with just 53 seconds remaining in the game. The Abbotsford native had just five goals all last season.
“It was a good game,” shared Schuurman. “I liked the way my teammates stepped up. They played hard and kept the momentum going against a good Rockets team.”
While Schuurman earned first-star honours for his three-goal performance, goaltender Palmer earned the third-star nod for stopping 33 of 36 shots including a beautiful diving save late in the third, to thwart any notion of a comeback for the visitors.
“That’s why he is here. He has that great work ethic,” said Coach Dan Price, post-game.
EXTRA: The Royals were without their captain Tarun Fizer for the second consecutive game. He signed a professional contract with the Colorado Avalanche organization and continues to skate with the team during the NHL pre-season. Twenty-year-old Royals forward Bailey Peach played parts of five seasons in the QMJHL. A new CHL rule allows teams across the three leagues: WHL, OHL and QMJHL to pick-up players that teams put on waivers. Prior to this, players could only be traded and picked-up within their respective league.
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