Loaded Kamloops Blazers overpower Victoria Royals
Inside information is always an advantage. Defenseman Olen Zellweger and forward Ryan Hofer know a lot about goaltender Braden Holt from their years together with the Everett Silvertips before the three traded this season. You have to assume that Zellweger and Hofer dumped everything they know about Holt in the Kamloops Blazers locker room ahead of Friday night’s game against the Victoria Royals.
Whether that had anything to do with it or not, the Blazers launched a crushing attack in the first 20 minutes, touching Royals starter Holt four times to take a 4-1 lead en route to a 7-4 win in the Western Hockey League in front of 4,252 fans at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Holt, who was solid for Victoria after coming from Everett, held his own in the last two periods as Kamloops overtook the Royals 46-30.
The resilient but lightning-fast Logan Stankoven, who like Zellweger is a two-time World Junior Championship gold medalist for Canada, extended his Blazers’ scoring streak to 28 games under tally, no goals and one assist in a three-point night. Caedan Bankier, another Canada Junior World Championships gold medalist, also scored for Kamloops. The Blazers are hosting the 2023 Memorial Cup this spring and sacrificed four WHL prospectus first-round draft picks from this year through 2026 to acquire Zellweger and Hofer from Everett. Zellweger had three assists and Hofer one assist on Friday. Matthew Seminoff led Kamloops by two goals in a four-point night. Fraser Minten also scored two goals for the Blazers, who have eight NHL draft picks.
Royal’s goals came from Teydon Trembecky, Riley Gannon, Alex Edwards and Robin Sapousek, the latter a Czech forward who lost to Zellweger, Stankoven, Bankier and Canada in the 2023 World Junior Championship gold medal game in Halifax.
Kamloop’s best power play in the league was a factor in the 2-5. Victoria went 1-3.
The humble Royals (13-28-5) hunted all night against the charged Blazers (27-9-6). It didn’t help that the Royals continued their trend of historically being one of the most injury-stricken teams in the WHL. Forward Carter Dereniwsky, a second-round draft pick by WHL prospects, returned after a lengthy absence. But still missing were Victoria captain and NHL San Jose Sharks-signed defenseman Gannon Laroque, Canada U-18 forward Brayden Schuurman and blueliner and former top-10 WHL first-round draft pick Austin Zemlak.
The Royals and Blazers meet again tonight at the Memorial Centre.