The Royals closed October with a respectable 9-7-1 record, good for 2nd in the BC division.
They’ve achieved this despite a rash of blueline injuries that have pushed the club to the bottom of the league for goals against. Zach Habscheid is the first of the injured back tonight, and a stabilized defence could push this club towards challenging the Kamloops Blazers for the BC division crown.
The Royals split the two-game home series with the Seattle Thunderbirds last weekend. Friday’s matchup was a goaltending duel between Keith Hamilton and Calvin Pickard for two periods before Kevin Sundher finally opened the scoring with a beautiful shorthanded tally just 13 seconds into the final frame. Tim Taber followed it up with another shorthanded goal on the same kill, his first goal in over two years. The lead evaporated quickly when the Thunderbirds scored three in 3:16 to take the lead but with Hamilton on the bench, Kevin Sundher poked home a rebound to send the game to overtime. The Thunderbirds would win in a shootout.
The next night was the Kevin Sundher show. Following up his two goal performance the other night, Sundher had four in this one as well as a helper as the Royals steamrolled the Thunderbirds 7-3. His linemate Robin Soudek had the inverse line with one goal and four assists. It took Sundher just 61 seconds to solve Pickard for his first of the game and only a couple of late goals by the Thunderbirds kept the scoreline even remotely respectable. Hayden Rintoul had a goal and two assists to move into sixth place in WHL defenceman scoring.
The Giants are in town for a pair of games at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The two teams head into the weekend with identical 9-7-1 records and these games will be the fifth and sixth matchups of the 10 the teams will partake in this year. Vancouver hold a 3-1 edge in the season series so far, having outscored the Royals 21-9. As mentioned, defenceman Zach Habscheid will be back in the line-up tonight after missing 11 games with a concussion. Tyler Stahl, out with an upper body injury, still has no timeline for his return to the blueline.
Tuesday, the Royals will welcome the Edmonton Oil Kings to Victoria. The Oil Kings are third in the Central Division with a 9-5-1 record and boast a stingy defence.
In the Community
The Royals are going back to the 80s tonight. Anthem Hair Salon is offering free mullet cuts to any fan willing to explain it to their wives or bosses.
The promise of a free ticket to an upcoming Royals home game might be enough to sweeten the pot. It’s also Fly-Away Friday so fans will have a chance to sail their paper airplane onto centre ice to win a Vancouver Canucks getaway package.
Saturday is Winter Driving Awareness Night. BCAA and ICBC will be offering free promotional items and information on safe winter driving and any fans who bring three non-perishable food items will have a chance to win a set of Winter tires during the first intermission.
Perhaps it was being named to Team WHL for the Subway Summit Series but Kevin Sundher has been a man possessed lately. He had six goals and one assist in a pair of games last weekend against Seattle to cap a superb October that sees him third league in league scoring and first in assists heading into action Friday. The third-round Sabres pick seems set to shatter his career-high of 76 points set last year.
Sundher’s childhood rival Brendan Gallagher brings his Vancouver Giants with him over on the ferry for pair of games this weekend at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. With the two teams tied for second in the BC division and the 48 penalty minutes they combined for in their last meeting, the fireworks this weekend might rival the ones going off around town last weekend. Puck drop tonight is at 7:05 and the game can be heard on The Zone 91.3.