The Victoria Royals put up a fight against the Western Conference leading Portland Winterhawks during last weekend’s Friday-Saturday set, refusing to go away after succumbing multi-goal leads during Saturday’s game.
Despite refusing to throw in the towel, the effort wasn’t enough to come away with any points, and the Royals find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference.
Riley Gannon had a nice start to the home stand, contributing to the scoresheet in both weekend games.
He tallied an assist Friday and buried two goals on Saturday to lead the team in points over the weekend. He’s been one of the main catalysts offensively of late (alongside Jake Poole) and has found the scoresheet in four of his last six games (3 goals, 2 assists).
The Royals will hope five days of rest at home will do them well in a home set against Prince George Cougars this weekend.
Puck drops Friday at 7:05 p.m., and Saturday at 6:05 p.m. at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
Royals feeling absence of captain Gannon Laroque in every way
Whether a defenceman scores a point per game, can reliably kill penalties, or is someone you can trust to chew up 22 minutes of ice time, replacing those minutes can be difficult to do by committee.
Vancouver Canucks fans wouldn’t have to look any further than the loss of Chris Tanev to the Calgary Flames via free agency in 2020. Tanev has never been flashy, but he’s a stalwart on the penalty kill, could comfortably play over 20 minutes per night, was hard to play against, and was capable of making a first pass.
You could argue the Canucks are still trying to replace him.
That is the conundrum head coach and general manager Dan Price faces right now with the absence of Gannon Laroque. Laroque is the captain, the team’s leader, and the squad’s only NHL drafted prospect (2021 4th round, San Jose Sharks).
NHL drafted players are the talismen of junior hockey; the beacon of hope that every player can look toward. They’re often the best player on the ice, and elevate entire teams with the pace and skill they can demand in training. They’re hugely important and can shoulder the media attention through both good and bad and are leaders in their work rate. These young men take the task of improving at their craft seriously.
The Royals don’t have that right now.
It’s unfortunate for the Royals—clearly, as the team can’t buy a win right now—but it’s even more unfortunate for Laroque himself. A 6’2″ bruising defender with excellent offensive instincts, Laroque had an outstanding season last year, scoring 10 goals and 52 points in 63 games and finishing top 10 in the league in power play points by a defenceman. That’s a heck of an 18-year-old season on a team that didn’t score a ton and wound up missing the playoffs.
Ideally, Laroque, 19, would get to build on last year’s breakout campaign and start showing the Sharks’ management that he is ready for the American Hockey League next year. The 19 year old season is the time an NHL prospect is supposed to completely dominate the WHL, when their hockey IQ and skill that got them here is finally merged with the physical development of becoming a young man. Think of a 19 year old Matthew Phillips scoring at will and tallying 112 points back in 2017-18.
Alas, Laroque won’t be able to do that. Victoria Buzz reached out to the Royals for an injury update, and Laroque is still month-to-month with an undisclosed injury.
The Royals will just have to keep plugging along without him.
Honour the Canadian Armed Forces this Saturday
The Victoria Royals will be honouring the Canadian Armed Forces this Saturday, with specially designed jerseys for the occasion. Join the Royals for an evening of Remembrance.
The Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt will be on site with military vehicles and activations for the family to enjoy.
Puck drop is at 6:05 p.m.
Victoria Royals vs Prince George Cougars
- Friday, November 18th, puck drops at 7:05 p.m.
- Saturday, November 19th, puck drops at 6:05 p.m.
- Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard Street