Victoria Royals players are drilled at practice ahead of this weekend’s Western Hockey League season-opening games against Prince George at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

Victoria Royals on a roll heading into WHL season opening weekend

Team looks to gain revenge on Prince George after pre-season loss to Cougars

Change is inevitable in most things, but especially junior hockey, where turnover of players aging out or drafted into the NHL makes setting an opening day roster a challenge.

While they have little say in the matter, Victoria Royals management has left the beginning-of-season placement of three of the team’s four drafted pro prospects in the hands of the NHL teams that own their rights. That, along with other factors, means roughly half of the Western Hockey League club’s 2018-19 roster is full of new faces.

RELATED: Victoria Royals expecting a different look for 2018-19 WHL season

Head coach Dan Price, whose team opens the season with a home doubleheader against Prince George this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 21-22) at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, understands player turnover as well as anyone and is a proponent of the team-first, group chemistry philosophy for attaining success.

“It’s about the quality of the group and what they can do together,” he said, not about what certain individuals could do for the team.

He bristles at the notion the Royals are rebuilding, having likely lost key forwards Matthew Phillips, Tanner Kaspick and Lane Zablocki to the pros. Instead he points to the strengths of those players epected to suit up in Victoria.

“It’s a tight group; they’re fast, they’re tenacious, tons of energy – we have great leadership and great youth coming in as well,” he said. “I’m just looking most forward to puck drop on Friday.”

The three 20-year-olds, forward Dante Hannoun, goaltender Griffen Outhouse and defenceman Ralph Jarratt, are doing an “exceptional job” leading the way, Price added. But younger players have also stepped up – six wore a captain’s ‘A’ in the pre-season – to share in a leadership capacity.

Price sees a couple of patterns emerging in this group: cohesiveness and team speed.

“Their ability already at an early point in the season to play as a group of five … to attack as a group, to defend as a group, has been exceptional,” he said. “I really see our success coming from a co-ordinated effort as opposed to one or two players making plays.”

RELATED: WHL Royals gear up for final day of training camp

Second-year right winger Tarun Fizer expects a fast-paced, close game Friday when Victoria meets the Cougars, whose 3-2 win on Sept. 9 was the Royals’ only loss in five pre-season games. While both clubs have much different lineups than last season, he likes the look of his team.

“We have a very special group here, very talented and young,” he said.

Having faced B.C. Division opponents Kamloops, Kelowna, Vancouver and the Cougars in the pre-season, Price expects divisional play this year to feature a lot of speed and physicality on the forecheck.

The trimmed-down 68-game WHL season sees the Royals play B.C. opponents 36 times.

Pre-season provided promising results

Some highlights from the Royals pre-season action:

• Third-year WHLer D-Jay Jerome was a cyclone, leading the team and the WHL in pre-season scoring (5G–5A), while posting a team-high 18 shots on goal in five games

• Rookie centre and Denmark native Phillip Schultz (4G–1A) and fellow Royals newcomer Tyler Lees (1G–4A) rounded out the top three, while Fizer notched three goals in two games

• The Royals six goalies in training camp collectively posted a 2.75 goals against average in five games.

Game times Friday and Saturday are 7:05 p.m. For tickets, visit victoriaroyals.com, call 250-220-7777 or drop by the Select Your Tickets box office at the arena Monday through Saturday.

editor@mondaymag.com

Victoria RoyalsWHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Colwood drive-thru window smashed after suspect receives burger without mustard

Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

UPDATED: Bear spotted walking on sidewalk near Uptown

Urban sightings prompt warnings from Saanich Police Department

Unleashed pups not permitted in some Saanich parks

Residents reminded of summer dog restrictions within district

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP look for Lochside Drive robbery suspect

One man arrested with a second man on the run following May 1 robbery

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Racist incident shocks Vancouver Island First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP investigating after video shows truck wheeling through Tseshaht territory

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit was en route as whale broke free from prawn trap line

B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Most Read