After slow start, the Royals look to build off strong finish to first half of WHL season

WatchDespite one win in their first 14 games, the Victoria Royals came on strong to finish the first half of the WHL season.

Each year has fresh optimism, and this season had added excitement, as what was old is new again for the Victoria Royals, welcoming fans back to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

After having to play in a B.C. COVID-19 bubble last season in Kelowna and Kamloops, the Royals welcomed fans back with a 6-3 win over the Rockets in their home-opener Oct. 8.

Unfortunately, the rest of October, and into November, wasn’t so kind. As injuries mounted, and players were brought in to fill the gaps, the Royals lost twelve games in a row, and some nights the team was playing with a short-handed bench.

But despite the losses, a bright spot emerged in a player who found the net early and often.

17-year-old Brayden Schuurman goes into the Christmas break among the Royals’ leading scorers, including his 13th of the year to defeat Tri-City in overtime Dec. 17.

And Schuurman has NHL eyes watching for next June’s draft, as he made NHL Central Scouting’s ‘Players to Watch’ list in the fall.

As the calendar changed to November, the Royals started seeing progress against one of the WHL’s best, in an overtime loss to Kamloops on Nov. 6.

But that momentum was halted by three games being cancelled, with opposition COVID-19 cases, and catastrophic flooding in B.C.

But as the team got healthy, it also hit paydirt in its return to play in Langley on Nov 20, snapping the losing streak on a late third period goal from former Vancouver Giant Evan Patrician.

“Obviously, Vancouver is my first junior team, that was the first time I ever played against the Giants, so getting that one late there, and get a game-winner in front of my billet family and a couple of friends from Vancouver is really cool,” Patrician said.

“Yeah there was a lot of celebration, I heard some guys say maybe we should do this more often, I forgot how fun this is,” added Asst Coach and Asst. General Manager J.F. Best.

And that winning feeling rolled into December, as the Royals put together a season-high five-game win streak, and had points in 10 games in a row.

The run provided a big shot of confidence moving into the new year.

“Yeah, just keep building it obviously, all the guys are playing great and we just got to keep building,” said Royals’ defenceman Gannon Laroque.

The Royals will come out of the break with a game in Vancouver on Monday, Dec. 27.

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Andy NealAndy Neal

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