The Kevin Sundher-less Royals split a pair of home games against the formidable Red Deer Rebels, still one of the WHL’s top teams even without the great white buffalo, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Jamie Crooks scored his 50th career WHL goal in a spirited second period comeack attempt, but the Rebels controlled the game from the outstart and pulled out a 7-4 win in the first game. Brandon Magee had two goals to continue his hot start since returning from injury. The Rebels’ rearguard Alex Petrovic was the game’s first star with a goal and three assists.
The next night, Marty the Marmot got quite the birthday treat. An early-season classic 4-3 shootout win.
In front over 5,000 fans and about a dozen of Marty’s closest mascot friends, Steven Hodges tied the game with just 35 seconds left to set up a thrilling overtime highlighted by Keith Hamilton’s stunning and deft pokecheck on Alex Petrovic.
Hamilton also came through in the shootout making two brilliant glove saves to allow Robin Soudek’s and Logan Nelson’s shootout tallies snap the Royals’ three game home losing streak.
The good news is Kevin Sundher is back and it’s not a moment too soon with another matchup against World Junior coach Don Hay and the rival Vancouver Giants on the table. The Giants have won four in a row and are 8-2 in their last 10.
The teams will square off at the Pacific Coliseum tonight and the Royals will hop the ferry tomorrow to host the Kootenay Ice that night. The Ice are 13-5-1-2. Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwan has a minisicule 1.86 GAA and a save pct of .935 with two shutouts this year, the best stat line in the WHL outside of the Tri-City American’s Ty Rimmer.
Keegan Kanzig, the Royal’s first pick in the 2010 Bantam Draft, was named to Team Pacific for the 2012 World Under-17 Challenge taking place in Windsor, Ontario that will run December 29th to January 4th. Kanzig follows in the tradition of Kevin Sundher, Steven Hodges, and Brandon Magee who have all participated in this tournament in recent years. Last year, Magee notched the Bronze Medal overtime winner against Quebec.
Sundher meanwhile stepped back onto the ice for the first time since his injury last night to represent Team WHL in a battle against the Russian Selects in the Subway Super Series game held in Regina. Sundher was unable to shake off his rust and racked up 14 penalty minutes, his statistical contribution to the game. He’ll get another chance tonight to impress Don Hay.
In the Community
This Saturday’s game against the Kootenay Ice will give four fans a chance to win tickets to the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships Gold Medal Game in Calgary. The package includes a pair of tickets, airfare and accommodation and will be contested in what the team is calling The Great Canadian Suitcase Race. The game will feature updates on the team”s Stop Hunger Campaign where the team donates one pound of non-perishable food to the Mustard Seed food bank for each save made by a Royal’s goaltender this season.
After opening the year with two goals and four assists in his first four games, forward Brandon Magee was felled by an ankle injury on October 2. After missing six games, Magee managed just one assist in his first four games back. Over his last seven however, Magee has three goals and 10 points including a crucial four game point streak with Kevin Sundher out of the lineup. Back on track with 17 points in 16 games, the fourth-round find is looking to improve on a strong rookie year that saw him put up 29 points, good for 19th in WHL rookie scoring.
Kevin Sundher gets another Team Canada audition tonight as the Royals square off against Don Hay and the newest contracted Hab, Branden Gallagher, aka the Royal killer with 11 points in four contests this year. Sundher has seven points in six games against the Giants. This is the last time the two teams will meet until March 3.