Special to Victoria News
The Victoria Royals hosted the Vancouver Giants for the second night in a row at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre Dec. 30. It was also the third game that week against their Western Division rivals. On Monday, the Royals prevailed 3-1 in Langley, and again 3-0 in Victoria on Wednesday.
Thursday, they blasted the Giants 7-3.
Bailey Peach scored two goals Wednesday, including a jaw-dropping lacrosse-style wrap-around — called the Michigan. While Royals goaltender Tyler Palmer stopped 50 shots on his way to earn his first WHL shutout — they were stunning performances.
The odds are the home team loses the latter half of the back-to-backs. Not this time. The Royals got to work early with a penalty assessed at 20 seconds to the Giants Cole Shepard for high sticking. Keanu Derungs parked on the right, glove-side of Giants goaltender Will Gurski, waited. Gurski gambled that Peach would shoot from the left side but guessed wrong and the 19-year-old Swiss import was gifted the yawning cage. He made no mistake in depositing the puck with a one-timer at 1:13 of the first. It was his seventh goal of the season.
Defenceman Gannon Laroque, the third star of the game, earned the second assist on the play. Derungs was fresh back from Red Deer where he had joined the national Swiss team for the IIHF World Junior Championships. It was a let down that the tournament was cancelled.
“Yeah, we could have done some good things there, so that was tough, but I think they made the right decision. I am glad to be back here,” Derungs said.
At 6:45 of the first Brayden Schuurman scored his 16th of the season on a tidy give-and-go play with Peach. Schuurman fired the puck between the legs of a defender and the puck trickled past Gurski. Shorthanded and unassisted, the fruitful Peach broke in on the right side and fired a hard wrister past Gurski to go up 3-0 with exactly 10:00 displayed on the clock.
The Royals were killing off the second of back-to-back penalties. It was Peach’s 16th of the season. Igor Zborovskiy was serving a penalty at the time. Queue the oft-played Presidents of the United States 1996-released song Peaches. The song hit the charts half a decade before Peach was born.
If it wasn’t for the goaltending or the pandemic, Peach’s arrival would stand out as the story of the year. Claimed as a free agent from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on a new rule where unclaimed players can be available to any team in the three leagues that make up the CHL. “I am really happy to be here in this beautiful city and play for this franchise,” Peach said. “If it wasn’t for the team and Dan Price, I wouldn’t be having the season that I am having.”
With two men in the box, Peach broke down the ice going around a Giants defender for a breakaway. He was hooked and was awarded a penalty shot, which he scored stick-side on Gurski for his 17th of the season and second of the night at 6:18 of the second period. Schuurman, at 11:05 of the middle frame, scored his 17th. Peach picked up an assist on that one too.
For Peach, the penalty shot goal didn’t count as shorthanded, even though the Royals had a player serving a penalty. Julian Cull and Shepard scored at 3:57 and 16:40, respectively. This kept the visitors motivated and very much in the game. The teams went to the dressing rooms with the score at 5-2 for the Royals.
Peach scored his hattrick goal from the middle of the slot with a one-timer at 6:36. Then Peach earned his record-setting seventh point on the night at 7:18 when he set up Derungs for his second goal of the game.
“I felt that he had a good game after coming back from world juniors which was really nice to see,” Price said. “I thought Campbell Arnold played well in goal too. He made himself big, was positioned well to let pucks hit and squared up well. It’s great to have two strong goalies like that. We don’t consider out goalies as number one and two, as they share the load for the most part and both deserve a chance to play.”
There were 2,394 boisterous fans in attendance, cheering Peach on. Many stuck around for the post-game interview over the PA system as the first star. The Royals were outshot 38-31. The Vancouver powerplay went 1/7, while Victoria went 3/6.
The Royals return to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for Tuesday, Jan. 11 and 12 as they face the Spokane Chiefs.
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