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The Victoria Royals defeated the Kamloops Blazers 3-2 Friday night in a contest that had a playoff feel.
The close game had a little bit of everything, much to the delight of over 6,000 fans in Victoria.
“It was awesome,” said Victoria goaltender Adam Evanoff after the game. “That was like playoff hockey. That’s a good BC division rival and that was a fun game.”
“We battled hard,” said Victoria forward Brayden Tracey. “We know Kamloops is a good team. A lot of guys stepped up tonight, from our goalie to our ‘D’, to our forwards. Especially the young forwards upfront. They really battled hard for us and got the job done tonight.”
However, It was a night of joy and pain for Cutler, who left the game late in the third period with an apparent injury.
Coming into action, both clubs were without their top goaltenders, as Shane Farkas and Dylan Garand out with injuries. As a result, Evanoff continued to start for Victoria, while Rayce Ramsey got the start for Kamloops.
Just over a minute into the game, the Blazers vaunted power play went to work after a Mitchell Prowse penalty. Kamloops would convert on the man-advantage, as Max Martin beat Evanoff at 2:59 of the first.
Victoria tied the game up after some hustle by the line Cutler, Tracey and Tarun Fizer. Ramsey made the original stop on Fizer, who collected the rebound and fed it to Cutler who one-timed it to tie the game at 1-1.
Victoria opened the second period by scoring while on the man-advantage for a 2-1 lead. A missed shot made its way to Gary Haden who buried it past Ramsey for his 21st of the season, the goal coming at 6:57.
In the third, the Royals came close to extending their lead, as Culter hit the post.
The Blazers tied it up as Matthew Seminoff jumped on a loose puck in the slot and tucked it past Evanoff. The goal by the Coquitlam, BC product deadlocked the game at two, with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Victoria pulled ahead for a final time as Cutler sniped his second of the night with seven minutes to go. The Spruce Grove, AB native struck from a sharp angle up and over the Kamloops netminder for the 3-2 lead.
Minutes later, Zane Franklin bodied Cutler hard into the boards, resulting in the Victoria forward shook up on the play. Victoria Head Coach Dan Price was heated at the officials for a non-call on the check, looking for a boarding or hit from behind infraction
After the hit on Culter, the emotions on both teams clearly ramped up. In the last three minutes, Tracey dropped the gloves with Ryan Hughes in a spirited tilt.
“There were a lot of emotions going on, lots of things going down on the ice,” said Tracey postgame. “I respect the other team but I wanted to stick up for a teammate.”
Victoria would hold their tempers and the lead for the remainder of the game, securing a victory over the first place Blazers.
With the win, Price secured his 100th WHL victory. On the accomplishment, he said “For it to come in a game like tonight, against a tough division rival, in front of over 6,000 screaming fans, it was pretty special. If you could have scripted it, I don’t think you could have written it any better to hit that milestone.”
Over a span of 193 games, the Royals under Price have totalled a record of 100-77-11-5.
With the victory, Victoria is riding a two-game win streak, after struggling on their eastern road trip. For the Blazers, they are suddenly in a minor skid, winless in their last three games.
A rematch between the two clubs goes Saturday night at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, with puck drop at 7:05pm.