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The Victoria Royals will embark on their final multi-game road trip of the season this week, beginning with a matchup against the BC Division-leading Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday.
It will be the final meeting of the 2022-2023 season between the two clubs, who have played eight total contests, with Kamloops winning six to Victoria’s two.
However, the Royals and Blazers have split their two most recent matchups, with Victoria taking home a 3-2 win on Jan. 28 and Kamloops winning 4-3 on Feb. 5.
Royals forward Alex Thacker is set to appear in his 200th career WHL contest against the Blazers on Wednesday, the most games played of any player currently on the roster.
The 20-year-old forward has been one of the most consistent offensive producers on the team this year, recording 29 total points on seven goals and 22 assists over 35 games since arriving in Victoria from Lethbridge and has registered 142 points on 29 goals and 113 assists since coming into the league in 2019.
Goaltender Braden Holt is the expected starter in net for Wednesday's game in Kamloops. The Bozeman, MT product has posted a 8-10-3-1 record with two shutouts, a 4.32 goals against average (GAA) and a .879 save percentage (SV%) over 23 games played with Victoria this year.
However, the Royals currently have two other goaltenders currently on the active roster in 18-year-old Nicholas Cristiano and 16-year-old Jayden Kraus.
Cristiano has served as the backup for the majority of the season, appearing in 24 games and earning a 4-14-0-0 record with a 4.46 GAA and a .852 SV%.
Kraus, meanwhile, enjoyed a successful season at the minor hockey level with the Prince Albert Mintos U18 AAA team prior to his call-up last week, posting a 12-11-0-0 record with a 2.68 GAA in 25 games.
The Prince Albert, SK product has played in two contests for the Royals over the past two seasons, allowing four goals in 35 total minutes of play.
The Royals will once again take on the challenge of attempting to shut down one of the most talent-rich teams in the league when they take on Kamloops this weekend.
Defenceman Olen Zellweger is just one of the many big names to watch out for on the Blazers roster. The 19-year-old leads all WHL blueliners with 28 goals on the season and comes into the weekend with 16 points (10 goals, six assists) over his last 10 games.
Weyburn, SK native Dylan Ernst has made the majority of starts in net for Kamloops this year, posting a 36-8-2-1 record with a 2.60 GAA and a .910 SV% over 49 games played.
Backup duties are provided by 19-year-old Matthew Kieper, who has played in 21 games between Regina and Kamloops this season, posting a 11-6-0-0 record with a 3.59 GAA and a .885 SV%.
Puck drop for Wednesday’s game is set for 7:00 pm at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, BC.
Players to watch:
#29 Teague Patton (F) – 63 GP, 43 PTS (13 G, 30 A)
#20 Alex Thacker (F) – 51 GP, 36 PTS (8 G, 28 A)
#8 Kalem Parker (D) – 63 GP, 34 PTS (6 G, 28 A)
#11 Logan Stankoven (F) – 43 GP, 90 PTS (31 G, 59 A)
#19 Caedan Bankier (F) – 50 GP, 72 PTS (32 G, 40 A)