Victoria Royals players are drilled at practice ahead of this weekend’s Western Hockey League season-opening games against Prince George at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

Victoria Royals on a roll heading into WHL season opening weekend

Team looks to gain revenge on Prince George after pre-season loss to Cougars

Change is inevitable in most things, but especially junior hockey, where turnover of players aging out or drafted into the NHL makes setting an opening day roster a challenge.

While they have little say in the matter, Victoria Royals management has left the beginning-of-season placement of three of the team’s four drafted pro prospects in the hands of the NHL teams that own their rights. That, along with other factors, means roughly half of the Western Hockey League club’s 2018-19 roster is full of new faces.

RELATED: Victoria Royals expecting a different look for 2018-19 WHL season

Head coach Dan Price, whose team opens the season with a home doubleheader against Prince George this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 21-22) at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, understands player turnover as well as anyone and is a proponent of the team-first, group chemistry philosophy for attaining success.

“It’s about the quality of the group and what they can do together,” he said, not about what certain individuals could do for the team.

He bristles at the notion the Royals are rebuilding, having likely lost key forwards Matthew Phillips, Tanner Kaspick and Lane Zablocki to the pros. Instead he points to the strengths of those players epected to suit up in Victoria.

“It’s a tight group; they’re fast, they’re tenacious, tons of energy – we have great leadership and great youth coming in as well,” he said. “I’m just looking most forward to puck drop on Friday.”

The three 20-year-olds, forward Dante Hannoun, goaltender Griffen Outhouse and defenceman Ralph Jarratt, are doing an “exceptional job” leading the way, Price added. But younger players have also stepped up – six wore a captain’s ‘A’ in the pre-season – to share in a leadership capacity.

Price sees a couple of patterns emerging in this group: cohesiveness and team speed.

“Their ability already at an early point in the season to play as a group of five … to attack as a group, to defend as a group, has been exceptional,” he said. “I really see our success coming from a co-ordinated effort as opposed to one or two players making plays.”

RELATED: WHL Royals gear up for final day of training camp

Second-year right winger Tarun Fizer expects a fast-paced, close game Friday when Victoria meets the Cougars, whose 3-2 win on Sept. 9 was the Royals’ only loss in five pre-season games. While both clubs have much different lineups than last season, he likes the look of his team.

“We have a very special group here, very talented and young,” he said.

Having faced B.C. Division opponents Kamloops, Kelowna, Vancouver and the Cougars in the pre-season, Price expects divisional play this year to feature a lot of speed and physicality on the forecheck.

The trimmed-down 68-game WHL season sees the Royals play B.C. opponents 36 times.

Pre-season provided promising results

Some highlights from the Royals pre-season action:

• Third-year WHLer D-Jay Jerome was a cyclone, leading the team and the WHL in pre-season scoring (5G–5A), while posting a team-high 18 shots on goal in five games

• Rookie centre and Denmark native Phillip Schultz (4G–1A) and fellow Royals newcomer Tyler Lees (1G–4A) rounded out the top three, while Fizer notched three goals in two games

• The Royals six goalies in training camp collectively posted a 2.75 goals against average in five games.

Game times Friday and Saturday are 7:05 p.m. For tickets, visit victoriaroyals.com, call 250-220-7777 or drop by the Select Your Tickets box office at the arena Monday through Saturday.

editor@mondaymag.com

Just Posted

North Saanich woman arrested after police pursuit, alleged abduction at elementary school

Two police officers were injured and one police vehicle damaged

Victoria resident faces discrimination from BC Transit since transitioning to a wheelchair

Daniel Sands says they are often not allowed on buses, even when there is room

Single dad reaches out to Greater Victoria community to help kids celebrate Christmas

A young family was overwhelmed with the warm response from strangers

VIDEO: More air-passenger rights go into effect this weekend

The first set of passenger rights arrived in mid-July in Canada

Swoop airlines adds three destinations in 2020 – Victoria, Kamloops, San Diego

Low-fair subsidiary of WestJet Airlines brings new destinations in April 2020

Wagon wheels can now be any size! B.C. community scraps 52 obsolete bylaws

They include an old bylaw regulating public morals

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Transportation Safety Board finishes work at B.C. plane crash site, investigation continues

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Trudeau sets 2025 deadline to remove B.C. fish farms

Foes heartened by plan to transition aquaculture found in Fisheries minister mandate letter

Indigenous mother wins $20,000 racial discrimination case against Vancouver police

Vancouver Police Board ordered to pay $20,000 and create Indigenous-sensitivity training

Suspect steals 150 pairs of cosmetic contacts from Nanaimo party supply store

Incident happened at Pattie’s Party Palace on Rutherford Road on Thursday

Most Read