Wednesday 15 August 2012

Royals Make Big Staff Changes Over The Summer

     The Victoria Royals made drastic changes to their front office this off-season.  After Mark Habscheid decided to step down as Head Coach and General manager of the hockey club to pursue a position in the Royals owner company RG properties, Royals owner Graham Lee was left to fill the vacant jobs.

     Lee looked to the NHL to fill the vacancy at GM.  He was able to convince former New York Rangers Assistant GM, Cameron Hope, to take the reins of the Victoria junior hockey club.  Lee was told by many other executives throughout hockey that Hope would be a great GM.  Hope even admitted that he was caught off guard when the Royals owner called about the job.  Cameron Hope spent four seasons (2007-2011) as assistant General Manager of the New York Rangers.  Hope's experience in the professional ranks will pay dividends to a young Royals team that was bounced quickly in the first round of the 2012 WHL playoffs. 

    Once Cameron Hope took the general manager job, he had the duty of picking his coach to teach his junior players.  Many names were thrown around in the job search, such as former Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston.  In the end though, it was Dave Lowry who was hired by the new GM.  Lowry joins the Royals after being an assistant coach for the NHL Calgary Flames the past three seasons.  Lowry said that the Royals' decision to make the GM and head coach positions seperate played a big part in his decision to take the job.  Lowry comes back to the WHL with previous experience in the league, as well as a good track record in the WHL.  The 47 year old's last stint in the WHL was as head coach of the Calgary Hitmen in 2008-09 season.  As head coach of the Hitmen, Lowry led the team to a record of 59-9-3-1, with 330 goals scored, and came within two games of winning the Ed Chynoweth cup that season.

     Now that we know the new GM and Head Coach, it's time to look at what this means for the Royals.  The Royals were an inconsistent team last year.  They would go on great stretches of play, and follow it up with terrible runs of luck.  Victoria was swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs by the Kelowna Rockets.  The Royals' second period play was a main concern in the playoffs as they were outscored 16-3 in the middle of frames of the four games.  The new coach will instill a sense of hard work and fun once training camps start.

  Lowry's track record shows that he works great with young players.  This is a very young Royals team that will need that kind of mentor.  Look for Lowry to set up an offensive strategy to utilize the big bodies of the scoring forwards, as well as showing off defenseman who specialize on the offensive side of the puck.  Players such as Nelson, Crooks, Hicketts, and Hodges will excel under Lowry's new system.  I suspect that the powerplay will improve dramatically.  This isn't to say that the Royals will be poor defensively, that's far from the truth.  Defensive minded players such as Kanzig, Pilton, Walker, and Traber will be utilized more to their strengths.

  It's an exciting pair of hires for the Royals to make.  Hope and Lowry both come in with lengthy track records in the business.  The idea to split the jobs of General Manager and Head Coach was also a smart move.  I've always found it better when the GM can focus on GM duties and the Coach can just focus on the lineups and getting the team ready to play.  If this summer is any indication of things to come, Royals' fans are in for a very exciting season.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Royals Pick Up Big Two Points Over Blazers

The Stats
First Period
0:08 Kamloops Goal-Tim Bozon, Assists-JC Lipon, Tyler Bell
0:15 Kamloops Goal-Tim Bozon, Assists-JC Lipon, Tyler Hansen
7:57 Victoria Goal-Robin Soudek, Assists-Steven Hodges, Brandon Magee

Second Period
5:16 Victoria Powerplay Goal-Hayden Rintoul, Assists-Ben Walker, Logan Nelson
18:24 Victoria Goal-Ben Walker, Assists-Jamie Crooks, Logan Nelson

Third Period
11:24 Victoria Powerplay Goal-Brandon Magee, Assists-Robin Soudek, Jamie Crooks

Win: Keith Hamilton (33 saves)   Loss: Cole Cheveldave (31 saves)

The Rundown

  For such an important run of games for the Royals, this one did not start the way they would have liked.  Two miscues in the defensive zone resulted in two Tim Bozon goals in the first 15 seconds of the game.  It seemed at that point that the rout was on and Kamloops would have their way with the Royals.  For the next couple minutes after those goals the Royals seemed to just hang on as Kamloops continued to look for the next goal.  Kamloops tried their best to try to make this game out of reach for the Royals early, but a faceoff win in the Blazers' zone swung the momentum.  Brandon Magee was able to win the draw to Steven Hodges.  Hodges then passed the pack to Soudek, who fired it home to get the home team on the board.  If that goal didn't put the momentum firmly in Victoria's hands then it was most certainly the back to back penalty kills that followed.  Hamilton came up huge on two very important penalty kills as the home team went to the dressing room down one after one.

   The second period started with both teams trading chances.  It wasn't till the about the midway mark that Hayden Rintoul wristed a powerplay goal past a screened Cole Cheveldave.  The Royals continued to play their dump and chase offense, and at the same time the Royals kept the Blazers to the outside whenever they would gain the offensive zone.  Victoria would take their first lead of the game off a Jamie Crooks centering pass that deflected off Ben Walker and into the open Blazers net.  Hamilton continued to hold the fort in net throughout the period to keep the Blazers of the board in the second period.

  The third period started with the Blazers trying to push the pace to the young Royals squad.  The Royals though would not stray from their game plan and continued their hard nosed efforts on the night.  Both teams started post whistle scrums and chirping after almost every whistle around the crease as the third moved along.  Victoria would get the insurance goal thanks to a quick Brandon Magee snapshot powerplay goal.  The Royals would continue a stingy defensive effort for the rest of the game and walked away with a 4-2 win.

Keys to the Game

Penalty Kill- The Royals killed off all 5 Kamloops powerplays.  This was the best Royals penalty killing I've seen all year.  They were agressive on the puck carrier and didn't get pulled out of position too much.  The cliche goes: "Alot of the times your best penalty killer has to be your goalie," and boy was that also the case tonight as Keith Hamilton made some solid saves when his team was down a man.  With special teams so important, especially down the stretch run, this game will hopefully be a confidence boost for this PK squad.

Team Philosophy- Ever since the Sundher trade this team has switched it's gameplan.  They now play a more dump and chase game.  This strategy definately suits this team better.  All four lines have size and strength to forecheck along the boards.  The Royals have also come together as a full team now aswell.  None of them play as individuals and all of them rely on eachother when need be.  Habsecheid also had a great set of lines constructed on the ice as well.  The top line of Hodges-Magee-Soudek, second line of Nelson-Walker-Crooks, third line of Harrison-Carroll-Crunk, and the energy line of Conroy-Forsyth-Traber.  All four of those lines bring some edge and grit to each and every shift.  This team is now a hard nose hard working team, and that's the kind of mindframe that wins games.

My Three Royals of the Night

Ben Walker- This kid continues to impress me.  Game after game his work ethic just continues to show how hard of a worked he is.  He chipped in with the game winning goal and an assist against the Blazers.  With 16 points in 23 games as a Royal this kid is showing his offensive worth.  He is also very good in his own zone, putting him up their with the best two way players on the team.

Keith Hamilton- It would be easy to have written him off after those first two goals, but he was a big difference in this game.  He held his team in it when both teams probably thought that it was going to be an easy night for the Blazers.  He was perfect on the penalty kill and was solid whenever their was a scramble around his crease.  He finished the night with 33 saves, although by watching the game you would think he never faced that many.  That's just because he was so calm after those opening 15 seconds that he never really had to make an out of position save.  Positionally sound and solid throughout the night.

Brandon Magee- Magee also chipped in with an assist and the insurance goal in the third period.  Magee continues to take advantage of the Sundher trade.  With Sundher gone Magee as thrived on the team.  He is a great player for this teams dump and chase tactic because he always seems to slip by a defenseman or forward trying to pin him against the boards.  He has a nose for the net and gets to the dirty areas of the ice.  He was a big part of that top line tonight and I don't see him slowing down anytime soon.

 Royals next game is tonight(Saturday Jan. 28th) at the SOFMC hosting the Kamloops Blazers for Pink in the Rink night.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Royals Mid-Season Review

The Season So Far

  The Royals started off their inaugural season with a decent 8-8-1 record.  They dropped a couple close games early on, but they were winning a lot of games that quite a few experts considered guaranteed losses for the Royals.  As the season grew on, those predictions started to unfold.  The Royals started to show signs of being a young team without much experience.  Consistency became a problem for the young hockey squad as they would go from a close game to a blowout loss throughout the schedule.  Despite all the injuries, inconsistent play, and bad breaks, the Royals hold the last playoff spot in the West.  They hold this position by three points over the Prince George Cougars.

The Top Three Players

  Kevin Sundher - Sundher led the Royals with 22 goals and 42 assists for 64 points in 40 games.  For a few nights Sundher would be the most dynamic player on the ice on either team.  He has great speed and a great set of hands to go with it.  He also had a nose for the net and didn't have any issues in going to the dirty areas of the play.

  Logan Nelson - Nelson currently has 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 41 games so far this season.  Nelson is having an outstanding rookie season for the Royals.  Not only has he shown his scoring prowess, but he has also been dedicated in helping out his teammates in his own zone.  He has been a very solid two-way player for the Royals.

  Jamie Crooks and Hayden Rintoul -I cheated, oh well.  Crooks currently sits with 21 goals and 22 assists for 43 points in 42 games.  Crooks has also been a solid two-way player for the Royals.  The thing that sticks out the most about Crooks is how he does so many small things right that end up as scoring chances.  Rintoul currently has 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points in 42 games.  Rintoul has been the Royals best offensive defenseman.  He is also the team captain and has some of the most experience on the team.  Although his defensive stats aren't as pretty, his leadership is a valuable asset for the young blueline of the Royals.

The Trade

  On January 9th, Royals GM Habscheid dealt star player, Kevin Sundher, to the Brandon Wheat Kings.  The Kings gained a great scoring threat who will excel on an already great team.  In return, the Royals received 17 year old left winger Dakota Conroy, 18 year old defenseman Jordan Fransoo, and a first round 2012 bantam draft pick.  The Royals got two good young players that will definitely help in the next couple seasons.  Fransoo is a 6'3 defensive defenseman who can skate.  He will help out the Royals as a good PK guy and shut down D-man.  Conroy is a left winger who hasn't reached his potential in the WHL yet.  With the Royals he will see more ice time and grow as a player.  This deal helps the Royals for the future and now.

  All in all, it has been a season a lot of people expected from the Royals.  They weren't picked to be a favorite going into the season, but they have a chance to keep that playoff spot and try to make some noise in the post season.  Get ready for the stretch run, because it will be even more exciting than the first half.


Monday 9 January 2012

Royals Trade Sundher for Two and a Pick

  The Victoria Royals traded away their leading scorer Monday night.  The hockey club sent Kevin Sundher to the Brandon Wheat Kings in exchange for 18 year old defenseman Jordan Fransoo, 17 year old left winger Dakota Conroy, and Brandon's 2012 first round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. 

Friday 28 October 2011

Royals Split Games On 4-Game Road Trip

  The Royals embarked on a 4-game road trip last weekend.  Due to site difficulties, I will do a small recap for each game.

October 21st, Royals @Vancouver Giants

 First Period 
5:07- Dalton Sward(Vancouver)
6:23- Marek Tvrdon(Vancouver) Assist- Brett Kulak
7:47-PP- Marek Tvrdon(2)(Vancouver) Assists- Jordan Martinook and David Musil
12:41-PP- Jordan Martinook(Vancouver) Assists-Brendan Gallagher and Marek Tvrdon
17:20-PP- Brendan Gallagher(Vancouver) Assists- Jordan Martinook and James Henry
19:04-PP- Anthony Ast(Vancouver) Assists- David Musil and Cain Franson

Second Period
7:22- Steven Hodges(Victoria) Assist- Lukas Kralik
16:36-PP- Austin Vetterl(Vancouver) Assists- James Henry and Marek Tvrdon

Third Period
17:25-PP- Levi Bews(Vancouver) Assists-Nathan Burns and Dalton Sward

  Tough opening game for the Royals' road trip as they ran into a tough Vancouver team.  Victoria also ran into penalty troubles in the game and gave up 4 powerplay goals.  The Royals seemed a step slower on each play, and were unable to match the Giants game plan.

 October 22nd, Royals @ Kelowna Rockets

  First Period
9:17- Mitchell Chapman(Kelowna)
10:28-PP- Jamie Crooks(Victoria) Assists- Hayden Rintoul and Kevin Sundher

  Second Period
8:32- Robin Soudek(Victoria) Assists- Kevin Sundher and Brett Cote
19:00- Steven Hodges(Victoria) Assists- Logan Nelson Brett Cote
19:37-PP- Myles Bell(Kelowna) Assists- Colton Sissons and Shane McColgan

  Keith Hamilton was the starter in Kelowna, and was solid as he stopped 22 of 24 shots on goal.  The Royals gave up 6 powerplays but were able to kill 5 of them off.  Sundher continued to rack up the assists, and Brett Cote had a hard working game with two assists.

October 25th, Royals @ Tri-City Americans

  First Period
4:21-PP- Kevin Sundher(Victoria) Assists- Robin Soudek and Brandon Magee
5:31-PP- Robin Soudek(Victoria) Assist-  Kevin Sundher

  Second Period
3:46- Kade Pilton(Victoria) Assists- Steven Hodges and Turner Popoff
6:35- Marcus Messier(Tri-City) Assist- Malte Stromwall
7:00- Steven Hodges(Victoria) Assists- Jamie Crooks and Logan Nelson
16:31- Justin Feser(Tri-City) Assists- Mitch Topping and Jordan Messier

 Third Period
0:17- Nathan MacMaster(Tri-City) Assists- Patrick Holland and Michal Plutnar
14:12-Jamie Crooks(Victoria) Assists- Logan Nelson and Hayden Rintoul
14:59-  Malte Stromwall(Tri-City) Assists- Connor Rankin and Michal Plutnar
  Victoria played a very disciplined game, killing off the 2 power plays they gave up.  They also took advantage of their powerplays as they went 2 for 3 with the extra man.  Strong game from Hodges, Soudek, and Sundher.  Keith Hamilton got the start in net and was spectacular as he stopped 41 of 45 shots.

October 26th, Royals @ Spokane Chiefs

 First Period
2:47- Mitch Holmberg(Spokane) Assists- Darren Kramer and Brenden Kichton
3:21- Marek Kalus(Spokane) Assists- Mike Aviani and Jarid Hauptman
10:28- Steven Hodges(Victoria) Assists- Logan Nelson and Brett Cote
15:21- Dominik Uher(Spokane) Assists- Corbin Baldwin and Steven Kuhn
16:01- Connor Chartier(Spokane) Assists- Brenden Kichton and Collin Valcourt

 Second Period
7:06- Marek Kalus(Spokane) Assists- Mike Aviani and Jarid Hauptman

 Third Period
14:53- Collin Valcourt(Spokane) Assists- Anthony Bardaro and Reid Gow

  Jared Rathjen made his first ever WHL start allowing 6 goals on 33 shots.  Hodges and Nelson continued to be strong two-way players for the Royals.  It was the first game between the two teams since Chilliwack and Spokane met in the first round of the playoffs. 

  Victoria is back home Friday and Saturday night for a pair of games against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Royals Use A Little Overtime Magic For The Win

                                                                     Photo from

   For the second night in a row the Royals hosted the Kelowna Rockets, and for the second night in a row the Royals played a very entertaining game for the fans.  Coming into this game the Royals were tied atop their division with the Kamloops Blazers.  The team was lead by Kevin Sundher, Robin Soudek, Jamie Crooks, and Logan Nelson who are all in the top 20 scoring in the league.

                                                              First Period
   The Royals starter in goal was Keith Hamilton (No Suprise) , and the Rockets replied with Jordon Cooke.  Robin Soudek would waste no time to get the crowd into it, as he scored his 8th goal of the season just 19 seconds into the game.  Austin Carroll and Kevin Sundher drew the assists on the goal.  The Rockets and Royals would then start the chippy, grinding play as both teams traded chances midway through the first.  Victoria had a chance on the powerplay to make it a 2-0 lead, but it was Kelowna that would capitalize.  Shane McColgan would take a pass from Filip Vasko, and beat Hamilton for a shorthanded goal.  The shorthanded tally was scored at the 15:05 mark.  Both teams would sustain a couple good offensive zone pressure shifts, but the period would end in a 1-1 tie.  Victoria out shot Kelowna 14-10 in the first.

                                                            Second Period
   The Royals would get a couple powerplay chances in the first half of the second, but they would not be able to get one past Cooke.  Traber continued his strong season as an agitator, as he would lure in Spencer Main for matching roughing penalties.  Kevin Sundher would give the home side the lead again, as he scored his 4th of the season at the 16:33 mark.  Austin Carroll got the lone assist.  That lead would only last just over a minute though, as Kelowna would respond.  Tyson Baillie would tie the game up at the 17:44 mark.  Cody Chikie and Jesse Lees were credited with the assists.  The teams would go to the locker room after the second tied at 2.  Kelowna out shot Victoria 16-9 in the middle frame.

                                                              Third Period
  The team would trade chances in the first half of the third frame, but it wasn't till near the midway mark of the period that the teams potted some goals.  First it was Cody Chikie scoring his 5th of the season at the 8:44 mark.  Spencer Main got the lone assist.  The Royals would get a chance to tie things up on the powerplay, and that's exactly what they would do.  Hayden Rintoul would score his 5th goal of the season with the man advantage.  Kevin Sundher and Robin Soudek would get the assists on the goal scored at the 10:02 mark of the third.  The rest of the period wouldn't see anymore scoring as the teams would head to overtime.  The Royals out shot Kelowna 12-7 in the third. 

  The Royals would waste no time in overtime. It took a mere 35 seconds for Jess Zgraggen to scores his first goal of the season, and give the home side the win.  Kevin Sundher and Robin Soudek provided the assists.

Top Three Royals' Players of the Game

Kevin Sundher-  Sundher would finish the game with a goal and 3 assists.  He is now tied at first in league scoring, and leads the entire league in assists with 17.  He continues to dominate and he shows now signs of slowing down.

Robin Soudek- Soudek finished with a goal and an assist and a +3 rating.  Soudek continues to set the tempo of most of the games offensively for the Royals.  He continues to provide solid veteran leadership on a young team.

Jesse Zgraggen-There is no way Jesse Zgraggen would be left off this list.  He finished +2, but more importantly he got the OT game winner.  Zgraggen has been a very effective physical defenseman for the Royals all season long.  Kudos to him for getting his first goal of the year which won his team the game.

  The Royals kept pace with the Blazers to stay atop the division.  The Royals next game is Friday in Vancouver to take on the Giants.

Friday 14 October 2011

Royals Mount Big Comeback to Down Rockets

  The Royals gave their fans quite the roller coaster ride Friday night.  There was a WHL milestone for a player, a good scrap, and a whole lot of scoring. They would trail by 3 goals at one point, but they would dig deep and pull out a W.  This is the first of back-to-back nights hosting the Kelowna Rockets.

                                                          First Period
  Keith Hamilton got the start in goal for the Royals, and Adam Brown responded for the Rockets.  Robin Soudek would open the scoring for the Royals at the 5:32 mark.  Austin Carroll and Kevin Sundher assisted on Soudek's goal, his 6th of the season.  The Rockets would start to push back shortly after Soudek's goal.  Kelowna's push would be rewarded when they were given a powerplay, due to a Kade Pilton tripping penalty.  On that powerplay, Spencer Main would get his 4th goal of the season.  Myles Bell and Damon Severson would get the assists on the goal scored at the 9:43 mark.  Kelowna would continue their strong play after that power play goal, and Colton Heffley would give the Rockets a 2-1 lead at the 12:02 mark.  Damon Severson and Tanner Moar would draw the assists.  The Royals would tie it up at the 14:55 mark off a goal by Robin Soudek, his second of the night.  Kevin Sundher and Jesse Zgraggen were credited with the assists.  Kelowna would get another powerplay opportunity, and they would make it count again.  Jesse Lees would get the powerplay goal, assisted by Myles Bell and Shane McColgan, at the 16:43 mark.  The Rockets would leave the first period with a 3-2 lead.  Victoria was out shot 16-11 in the first.

                                                         Second Period
   Kelowna and Victoria would play a more even game in the second, but it was Kelowna who was able to extend their lead.  Colton Sissons would get his 5th goal of the year at the 4:35 mark.  Shane McColgan and Damon Severson got the assists.  Just seconds after that goal, Colten Martin would get a boarding call which Austin Carroll took exception to.  Carroll and Martin would drop the gloves to intensify the physicality of the game.  Kelowna would get another powerplay, and once again they would make it count.  Myles Bell would get the extra man goal, his 2nd goal of the year.  Filip Vasko and Spencer Main drew the assists on the goal scored at the 6:42 mark.  Zane Jones would pull the Royals within two goals with a goal of his own, his first career WHL goal.  Jamie Crooks got the lone assist, the goal was scored at the 8:35 mark.  The Royals would trail 5-3 after the second.  Both teams ended up with 8 shots a piece in the 2nd.

                                                           Third Period
  Zane Jones would continue his strong play, as he would pot his second goal of the night 4:44 into the final frame.  The Royals pushed back hard trying to get back into the game.  The Royals would finally capitalize on a powerplay opportunity at the 11:17 mark of the third.  Jamie Crooks' powerplay marker would tie the game up at 5.  Robin Soudek and Kade Pilton were given the assists.  After serving a penalty for Hooking, Lukas Kralik would come out of the penalty box and score on a breakaway giving the Royals a 6-5 lead.  Steven Hodges threw the puck up for Kralik, getting the lone assist on the go-ahead goal scored at the 14:27 mark.  Hamilton would make a couple key saves to keep the Rockets at bay.  Logan Nelson would get the insurance goal with an empty netter at the 19:08 mark.  The Royals went on to win 7-5.  VIC out shot KEL 15-3 in the third, and 34-27 overall.

Top Three Royals Players

Keith Hamilton-  He may have let in 5 goals, but he also made some key saves late to keep his team in it.  A couple of the goals against were flukes, and he didn't look terrible.  He only faced 3 shots in the final period but they were all key saves.  It was an ok outing by him statistics wise, but all in all he kept his team in it.

Zane Jones- Zane potted his first 2 career WHL goals tonight.  They were big goals considering he scored two in a row and started the comeback parade for the Royals.  He used his big frame to power himself to the net and was no slouch in his own zone.  Congrats to Zane on a milestone game.

Robin Soudek- Soudek has been playing strong all season.  Soudek finished tonight's game with 2 goals and an assist.  He is playing at just over a point per game pace.  He continues to be a veteran presence for the Royals.  Great game tonight by Soudek as he also finished with a +2 rating.

  The Royals and Rockets will got at it again tomorrow night.  Puck drop is at 7:05.