Christopher Kelsall/Special to Victoria News
The Victoria Royals hosted the Tri-City Americans for the second time in two nights at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday night.
The Americans prevailed 6-5 to split the weekend set. The home team took the first game with a 3-2 overtime victory. The previous time the teams met on Dec. 1, the Royals prevailed 4-3 in OT. This was the final matchup between these two teams this regular season.
Saturday, the Americans drew first blood just 53 seconds into the game when Sasha Mutala was at the right place at the right time parked at the Royals net. Royals defender Gannon Laroque tried to hand a loose puck to goaltender Tyler Palmer but Mutala pounced and knocked the puck in the net.
Mutala may be a future teammate of the Royals’ Tarun Fizer. Mutala was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche. The 20-year-old Burnaby Winter Club product was chosen in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL draft. Fizer earned a professional tryout as a free agent and did get a sniff this year with the AHL affiliate Colorado Eagles.
Fizer is currently injured and did not play Friday or Saturday.
The home squad got into penalty trouble when Bailey Peach cross-checked an Americans player to the ice 54 seconds later. Then Kalem Parker took a cross-checking penalty at 3:26. The Americans capitalized two minutes later, but technically not on the powerplay. Rhett Melnyk scored his fourth of the season. Assists went to Parker Bell and Ethan Ernst.
Six minutes into the first period Reggie Newman scored his first career WHL goal when he skated in on the right side and let a hard wrister go over the shoulder of goaltender Nick Avakyan. He fired the puck from the top of the right faceoff circle.
“It was good to finally get that in front of the Victoria fans. The guys had been bugging me about that for a while,” joked Newman.
Peach earned first star honours Friday night for his two-goal and one assist performance. He was at it again Saturday, this time he set up Tanner Scott in the slot. Peach fired a crisp tape-to-tape pass from behind the net to Scott who made no mistake, tying the game at 2-2.
Peach struck again at 16:21 with a redirection off the end boards after a Scott foray that resulted in a Laroque shot. Jason Spizawka earned the second assist on the play.
The Americans came back during the second period scoring a pair to tie it up 4-4. Parker Bell netted his ninth at 10:02 and Samuel Huo scored his seventh 76 seconds later.
Carson Haynes got rough with the Royals, looking for a fight. He was assessed a two-minute penalty for roughing at 15:57. Forty-eight seconds later, Evan Patrician, went backhand on Avakyan from the right-hand side of the net to regain the lead and to send the teams to the dressing rooms with the Royals up 5-4.
During the third period, Mutala scored his second of the game at 7:35. The Royals had been dominating, but against the play, Lukas Dragicevic wristed a point shot on goal, with Palmer out of position, Mutala redirected the puck into the net to tie the game at 5-5.
But all the air let out of the building when Peach took a four-minute double-minor for high-sticking at 9:07. Subsequently, Tyson Greenway scored to put the Americans ahead 6-5 for good.
“I know the guys wanted this one really bad,” said coach Dan Price. “They dug really deep for this one and put everything into it.”
The Royals now go on Christmas break, returning to the ice Dec. 27.
Price will be heading to Tofino to do some surfing. “I am getting as far away from people as I can due to the pandemic. We told the guys, we know you need a mental break and to heal injuries and rest up, but just be careful when you go home for the holidays.”
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