First-place Royals play ‘until to the buzzer’

Royals finding identity as they ready for Kamloops Blazers Wednesday, Kelowna Rockets this weekend

Victoria Royals Logan Nelson

Call them clutch, call them competitive, call them whatever you want, the Victoria Royals are winning. Through the first eight games the Royals had six wins, half of those came in extra time.

Forward Logan Nelson is one of the most visible reasons the team is off to a great start.

The 19 year old is playing noticably more physical and is chipping in timely goals, like the one he scored to tie the game against the Tri City Americans with 35 seconds left on Saturday to make it 3-3. He then scored the only goal of the shootout to cap a come-from-behind 4-3 victory.

It was his second shootout winner this year.

“I’ve been lucky in the shootout, getting bounces I guess,” Nelson said.

All in all, it was a solid three games in three nights road trip for the Royals, as they bounced  back from a 5-3 loss to the Spokane Chiefs on Friday to beat the Americans Saturday and Vancouver Giants 2-1 on Sunday.

“I really liked the adjustments we made on Saturday and the resiliency we showed (after Friday’s loss),” Lowry said. “We had a goal called back on the powerplay but came back and scored again, and that’s a good sign.”

Saturday was also the second time this season Nelson scored the only goal of the shootout, thereby winning the game for the Royals (in partnership with goalie Patrik Polivka, who has let in zero goals on six shootout attempts). Nelson’s other shootout goal was against the Kamloops Blazers on Sept. 28, also a 4-3 win.

“We’re much better at staying positive and if they get a goal, we know it’s not the end of the world,” Nelson said. “We’re not going to give up until the buzzer goes, especially when the other team thinks they’ve got the win.”

Without Steven Hodges, who was perhaps the team’s best player in the first three games before getting injured, the recent success of Nelson and the Royals is all the more impressive.

As of Wednesday morning, Nelson was second in team scoring with three goals and six assists, behind Alex Gogolev’s three goals and eight assists.

“It’s been up to the older guys to pick it up. We definitely miss Steve in the lineup,” Nelson said.

“Gogolev has been great. He’s got eyes in the back of his head finding guys out there.”

With Hodges out, Nelson moved off of Gogolev’s line and, onto a line with Jamie Crooks and Austin Carroll, though Nelson and Gogolev have skated together on the powerplay and with the extra attacker.

“I’ve been able to be compatible with (Crooks) and (Carroll) and game-by-game, we’re getting better,” Nelson said.

Trend or no trend, coming back from behind and winning in extra time is the biggest difference from last year’s Royals, and coach Dave Lowry isn’t picky right now about the way his team wins.

“This is a team searching for an identity right now,” Lowry said, “coming from behind, winning close games, winning in shootouts. When you’re winning you’re looking for new ways to challenge the team just as you would when you’re losing.”

The Royals are in Kamloops Wednesday night against the Blazers and home to the Kelowna Rockets Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

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