Youthful Royals ready to go against Blazers

Shaw TV to air Victoria Royals open WHL quarterfinal playoff series on road against Kamloops Blazers, Friday, March 23

Members of the Victoria Royals hold their sticks in the air as they salute the crowd following a victory over the Portland Winterhawks at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.



One thing you can count on come playoff time in the Western Hockey League is tight-lipped coaches.

Victoria Royals coach Marc Habscheid offered little about his club’s strategy on how they’ll attack the Kamloops Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.

Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal go tonight (March 23) and tomorrow in Kamloops. The series returns to Victoria for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’ve identified some things but we don’t want to share that,” Habscheid said. “We go over video, it’s been the routine (this week), to break (Kamloops’) game down and try to back it up with what we do in practice each day.”

Back in 1998-99 Habscheid coached the Blazers all the way to the WHL final, only to lose to the Calgary Hitmen. The Blazers have yet to win a playoff round since then and, in Habscheid’s eyes, this series is the Royals’ to steal.

“(Kamloops) had a good regular season, they’ve built for this season and they expect to move on from the first round this year. The pressure’s on them.”

The coach also believes his youthful squad isn’t getting the respect it deserves for knocking off the third-place Portland Winterhawks in the final two games of the season.

“We beat Portland and we’ve heard, ‘well they didn’t have (Sven) Bartschi. (But) when we’re in tune we’re a decent hockey team,” Habscheid said. “We’re a very young group. We like our skill. We just have to concentrate – not on being the best individually – but (on being) the best team.”

Blazers associate coach Dave Hunchak, however, put his team’s cards on the table.

“(Victoria’s) got two good offensive lines. They’re dangerous offensively. I think we need to make those two lines play defence as much as they possibly can,” he said.

“We know they’re going to be extremely physical and try and pound us and that’s been the case for the past three months. Every team that we play has a mandate to try and be physical with us. I expect Victoria to try and grind us down and we expect our guys to push right back.”

Aside from captain Hayden Rintoul and starting goalie Keith Hamilton, the Royals are without a lot of deep playoff experience. To make matters worse, forwards Robin Soudek, 20, and Brandon Magee, 18, and defenceman Zach Habscheid, 20, are doubtful for Friday’s opener.

All three played in last year’s opening playoff round series against the Spokane Chiefs.

Without them, the Royals are even younger.

“We have a lot of rookies this year and they’ll be playing some big roles,” Rintoul said. “Everyone’s going to be nervous and excited, you have to control your emotions and stay focused.”

The 21-year-old defenceman was on the WHL champion Kootenay Ice that went to the Memorial Cup last year. Rintoul helped the Ice defeat the Winterhawks  in the WHL final, where Hamilton was the backup.

“(Kootenay) didn’t have too many rookies last year. But you have to play your role and accept your role for the playoffs, and help out in any way you can.”

Royals watchShaw TV will air all seven games of the Royals versus Blazers quarterfinal series.

Game 1: Fri., March 23 7 p.m. at KamloopsGame 2: Sat., March 24 7 p.m. at KamloopsGame 3: Tues., March 27 7:05 p.m. at VictoriaGame 4: Wed., March 28 7:05 p.m. at Victoria

If necessaryGame 5: Fri., March 30 7 p.m. at KamloopsGame 6: Mon., April 2 7:05 p.m. at VictoriaGame 7: Wed., April 4 7 p.m. at Kamloops

 

 

Just Posted

Ancient microbes discovered off the Juan de Fuca Ridge potentially offers glimpse into alien life

The marine bacteria is dependent on hydrogen, a compound present almost everywhere

Saanich rental project wins silver by going ‘green’

The Verve rental housing project stands at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue

Volunteers needed for annual Mother’s Day walk

Breast Cancer Society of Canada hosts annual Mother’s Day event

Sidney Lions dish $4,000 to help build on growing trishaw bike charity

Cycling Without Age Society draws attention as far off as Washington

Sign forbidding rabbit drop-offs gets stuffed bunnies instead

Residents seemingly undeterred by strict wording this Easter

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Most Read