At the end of a six-game road swing, the Victoria Royals marched into Cranbrook and dethroned the Kootenay Ice at Western Financial Place with a resounding 4-0 victory Saturday night.
The defining damage came over a 15-second span in the final two minutes of the second period.
With a 1-0 lead on the board, the Royals tripled their advantage in the final 65 seconds of the second period. Brandon Fushimi put the visitors up 2-0 with a goal that came quickly off a face-off to the glove side of Kootenay Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin. On the ensuing shift, Royals forward Brandon Magee won the draw at centre ice. After receiving a pass from towering blue-liner Keegan Kanzig, lanky forward Axel Blomqvist cruised untouched into the high slot before sending a low shot through Hoflin for a 3-0 lead.
The Ice never recovered as Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath stopped 27 shots en route to his first shutout of the season, and second of his WHL career.
“It’s devastating on the group,” said Kootenay Ice forward Jaedon Descheneau. “You’re in the game, 1-0, and one scoring chance can change a game. I had one literally 10 seconds before [the Royals] went down and scored. If I would have scored that, it would have been a different game.
“The way I’ve been playing the last little bit, pucks aren’t going in for me and I’m not really doing much. I haven’t accomplished anything out there. I put this loss on my back, on myself. To come back from [down] 3-0 in the third [period] is difficult, especially against a team like [Victoria] that knows how to win.”
Offense continues to be a sore spot for the Ice. Through 10 games, Kootenay has only managed to send 20 pucks to twine, making them the second-lowest scoring team in the entire WHL. Only the Lethbridge Hurricanes, with 19 goals, have scored less than the Ice.
“We’re not working hard enough to get the puck in the [defensive] zone,” said forward Luke Philp after the game. “Then we’re tired when it comes down to creating offence. We’ve got to be a lot better at getting pucks back, working harder to get pucks back so we’re not spending our whole shift defending, because that’s what we’re doing right now.”
After netting his first career WHL shutout, Hoflin was victimized four times by the Royals.
The opening goal of the game came on a long power-play point shot from Royals defenceman Travis Brown. The puck was redirected on its way to the net before slipping through Hoflin to give the Royals a 1-0 edge after 20 minutes of play.
The hosts battled through the middle period, outshooting the visitors 12-6. Ultimately, the Royals made the most of their second-period chances to all but seal the triumph.
Logan Fisher added a third-period goal to make it 4-0 Victoria a little more than six minutes into the final period. If there were any comeback hopes remaining in the building, most of them were quietly erased following Fisher’s tally.
After being short two skaters last night due to injuries and suspensions, the Ice dressed a full roster for a little less than one period against the Royals. Forward Jon Martin, in only his second game back since returning from an upper-body injury, left the game late in the first period with a suspected upper-body injury.
He didn’t return after the first intermission.
The loss drops the Ice to 3-7-0-0 this season, and 2-1-0-0 on home ice. The Royals improved to 6-6-1-0 with the victory.
Next up, the Ice return to Saskatchewan for a pair of games beginning Tuesday night against the Prince Albert Raiders (4-6-0-0). The two-game swing carries on Wednesday when the Ice visit the Saskatoon Blades (3-7-0-0). The next home game for the Kootenay Ice comes Oct. 24 when the Calgary Hitmen (5-4-0-1) visit Western Financial Place.
“Our road record is not very good right now,” Philp said. “Playing on the road, it’s all about being competitive. We need a lot more of that. We need more guys to put more will into winning games. We don’t have enough of that right now.
“It’s tough. You’ve got to try not to get down on yourself. If you let in one early, you’ve got to keep battling. You can never stop competing out here. The second you don’t compete on the ice, you get walked on all over because teams are good in this league.”
Following tonight’s tilt, the Royals return home for the first time in 12 days after playing six consecutive games on the road. After a much deserved rest, they will host the Vancouver Giants (5-4-0-0) Oct. 24.
Notes: D Jordan Steenbergen was a healthy scratch against Victoria…D Bryan Allbee, D Dylan Overdyk and F Jared Legien returned to the lineup after serving team-imposed suspensions Friday against Regina…F Vince Loschiavo missed his fourth game with an upper-body injury and is expected to miss another week; F Tim Bozon is considered day-to-day as he missed his second game with a lower-body injury; D Rinat Valiev missed his 10th game of the year due to a lower-body injury. He is expected to be ready for another two to four weeks…Tonight’s game marked the final contest in a six-game road trip for Victoria that saw the team travel an astounding 3,709 km in 12 days…The Royals went 4-2-0-0 on that road trip…