Kamloops, BC - In a Saturday night tilt at Interior Savings Centre the Victoria Royals went up against the Kamloops Blazers. The Royals started Patrik Polivka in net, while the Blazers responded with Taran Kozun.
The Blazers opened the scoring at 4:10 of the first period on a goal by Matt Needham. Defenceman Jordan Thomson's shot from the blueline was blocked in front before Needham found the loose puck to the right of Polivka and buried it past the Victoria goaltender. The Royals wasted no time to tie the game as Brandon Fushimi scored his third goal of the season nine seconds later. Fushimi skated down the right wing and released a wrist shot from the right point that eluded Kozun blocker side. The two teams fought tooth and nail in the frame, but Polivka fought off 17 shots in the opening 20 minutes and the game remained tied 1-1.
The Royals took their first lead of the game at the 6:02 mark of the second period on a Steven Hodges tally. Brett Cote took a slapshot from the blueline that was stopped, but the rebound fell to the top of the crease. Hodges, with his back to the goalie, backhanded the loose puck through his legs and beat Kozun five-hole for his 19th goal of the season. In a game that was already heated, Fushimi dropped the gloves for the first time in his WHL career with Aaron Macklin at the 8:02 mark. The Royals' rookie took the decision in a spirited tilt which seemed to spark his team. Victoria quickly added to their lead on a powerplay goal by Alex Gogolev at 8:39. Brandon Magee faked a slap shot and made a pass from the left point to Gogolev who snapped a shot from the right face-off circle past Kozun. The game began to take on a playoff-like tone in the middle frame as a combined 42 minutes in penalties were assessed and tempers flared. The Blazers answered the intensity with a powerplay goal of their own at the 17:56 mark. JC Lipon threw a pass from the left wing boards to Hrbas in the high slot, who snapped a shot past Polivka blocker side. Kamloops continued to press and were rewarded with two goals by Needham in the final 1:18 of the period. At 18:42 the Blazers' forward tied the game when he collected a loose puck near the goal mouth and shoveled the puck into theVictoria net. Needham then completed the hat trick with a powerplay marker when he accepted a Chase Souto pass in the slot and rifled a shot that beat Polivka high blocker side with 21 seconds remaining in the second. Needham's hat trick revitalized the Blazers and sent the Royals into the second intermission down by a 4-3 score.
The Royals would tie the game once again on a Brandon Magee powerplay goal at 3:01 of the final frame. Magee fought the puck loose behind the Kamloops net before he carried it to the front of the goal and jammed it under Kozun's pads. Magee's goal prompted the Blazers to replace Kozun with Cole Cheveldave. The final stanza continued to be a tight-checking battle, but Magee would notch his second powerplay goal of the period at the 6:20 mark to vault the Royals into the lead. Alex Gogolev skated behind the net and threaded a pass to Magee in the low slot who then fired a wrist shot that whistled past the left pad of the Blazers' netminder. Kamloops had a prime chance to even the game when Kale Kessy was sprung on a breakaway late in the game. Kessy launched a wrist shot from point blank, but Polivka robbed him with a beautiful glove save. Kamloops applied even more pressure in the dying moments of the game when they pulled Cheveldave for the extra attacker. Strong defensive play and multiple key saves by Polivka preserved two hard-fought points for the Royals.Victoria 5 Kamloops 4.
Victoria went 3/10= 30.0% on the power play, while Kamloops was 2/6 = 33.3%. The Blazers outshot the Royals 32-21.
The Royals now return home to host the Vancouver Giants on Friday, January 25th and Saturday, January 26th. Saturday's game also marks the Royals' annual Pink in the Rink game in support of the BC Cancer Foundation! Special ticket offers are available at the Select Your Tickets Box Office for Pink in the Rink with partial proceeds benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation.