The Victoria Royals and Kamloops Blazers will face off Saturday night in Victoria’s 14th game of the season. It’s also the last in a string of 37 straight against B.C. division opponents for the Royals.
To say they’re looking forward to seeing a new opposition next weekend when the Spokane Chiefs come to town, might be an understatement.
“Oh, it’s going to be great. I’m really excited to finally see someone else, so it should be great,” said goalie Tyler Palmer
General manager and head coach Dan Palmer added, “a new opponent, new faces, new tactics, new coaching styles, new styles of play, those will be really exciting for the guys and not just for our team, but for every team around the league.”
The Royals were in Kelowna on March 11, 2020, which was their last game before COVID-19 brought the 2019-20 WHL season to a halt.
The league resumed play last spring with four separate seasons for its four divisions, including B.C.’s 22-game bubble, in Kelowna and Kamloops.
“You never really got a sense of what the teams were going to be looking like going in because there was no pre-season. There weren’t even training camps,” said Price.
With border restrictions still in place in early September, the WHL announced division-only games for its B.C. and U.S. clubs through October, so the Royals’ fierce rivalries, to begin with, got even more heated.
“Well obviously, we played Prince George five times in a row, so that one, there’s a pretty good rivalry there,” said Palmer.
“It was getting pretty heated by the end there, and that, going back to things that feel like a playoff series, that felt like a playoff series,” said Price.
“So there’ll be a lot of carryover from that going into the next time we play them.”
So after 11 games against Kamloops and Prince George, 8 against Kelowna, and seven more tilts with Vancouver, a visit from the Chiefs will offer a fresh week of preparation.
“It’ll be interesting, I guess. don’t know too much about them, so it’ll be a good matchup,” said Royals’ defenceman Jason Spizawka, who scored his first goal last Saturday in Kelowna.
We haven’t seen this team for a while and we need to learn about their tactics, about their personnel, about their habits and tendencies,” said Price.
“What’s our game plan, how do we focus on our strengths, what we do well, but also things that we want to do to maybe take advantage of some things we see with their team, from a strategic perspective, so those are really the fun ones, and those make for very interesting engaging weeks of practice.”