Game Day Preview: Victoria Royals @ Kelowna Rockets

DUBNetwork Game of the Night: Victoria Royals (20-12-2-0) @ Kelowna Rockets (19-13-1-2) 7:05 PM PST

There is a tight race for second place in the BC Division and the two teams battling it out for playoff seeding are facing off at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C. this evening. The Royals currently enjoy a one-point lead on the Rockets.

The Royals and the Rockets have split the season series but Kelowna edges Victoria on points due to a shootout loss. The last time these two teams met in late November, the Rockets took a decisive 4-1 decision.

The teams are not at full strength as the Rockets are missing Nolan Foote (World Juniors), Kyle Topping (Injury), and Sean Comrie (Injury). It is possible the Royals will be without Jacob Herauf (day-to-day) and Keanu Derungs (day-to-day) and won’t see Nolan Jones as he is listed as 1-to-2 weeks.

This means that the Rockets will be without their leading scorer as well as two very good point producers for this important tilt.

Pavel Novak (Photo- whl.ca)

Kelowna does still have some excellent firepower on the teams as rookie import Pavel Novak is playing at nearly a point per game pace. Another offensive weapon comes in the form of defenseman Kaedan Korczak, he’s got six goals and 23 assists while patrolling the blue line for Kelowna. Don’t count out Matthew Wedman, he has six points in 10 games since joining the Rockets on December 5th.

The Royals top gun is in the lineup and he goes by the name of Tarun Fizer. Fizer has piled up the points this season for Victoria with 11 goals and 21 assists. Not far behind is 20-year-old Gary Haden, he’s got the most goals on the Royals (14) and has added another 14 assists. Mitch Prowse and Will Warm carry the offensive load from the blue line, they have 15 and 12 points respectively.

You can expect a battle between the pipes as the Rockets will start Roman Basran and the Royals expect to start Shane Farkas. The Royals netminder is currently fifth in the WHL with a 2.35 goals-against average. His .924 save percentage is among the league leaders as well. Basran is 10th overall in goals-against average at 2.58, he also has a .912 save percentage.

In other WHL Action

Regina Pats (11-19-3-1) @ Swift Current Broncos (7-24-1-2)

The Pats are coming off an impressive 2-1 overtime win over the defending WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders. In the two previous meetings this season, the road team has left with two points. The Broncos won 2-1 in Regina on November 19 and the Pats’ Max Paddock made 25 saves in 6-0 shut out win at the Innovation Credit Union i-plex.

Prince Albert Raiders (20-12-4-1) @ Brandon Wheat Kings (17-17-1-2)

Two East Division rivals meet on Friday night as both look to gain ground in the standings. Prince Albert is looking for their first win in six games as the Winnipeg ICE have taken over the top spot in the division. Meanwhile, Brandon is tied with Saskatoon for third and have won two in a row. Aliaksei Protas is fifth in WHL scoring despite missing time representing his country at the IIHF World Junior Division 1 Championships.

Aliaksei Protas (Photo-Brian Liesse)

Moose Jaw Warriors (10-20-2-0) @ Edmonton Oil Kings (25-7-5-2)

A red-hot Oil Kings, 8-1-1-0 in their last ten games, welcome Ryder Korczak and the Moose Jaw Warriors to town for the second time this season. Korczak, a 2002-born center from Yorkton, SK, is having an incredible 2019-2020 campaign with 37 points in 32 games. Edmonton is one of the deepest teams in the WHL in regards to scoring, the Central Division leaders have 15 players with at least 10 points.

Seattle Thunderbirds (13-19-2-1) @ Lethbridge Hurricanes (23-10-0-5)

The Thunderbirds split their games against the Central Division into two road trips and kick-off the second trip tonight in Lethbridge. Seattle trails Tri-City by two points for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Lethbridge will be without at least three key members of their team as Oliver Okuliar, Dylan Cozens, and Calen Addison are representing Canada at the World Juniors. The Hurricanes have won three straight as they try to keep pace with Edmonton for the top spot in the Central Division.

Saskatoon Blades (17-16-1-2) @ Red Deer Rebels (13-19-0-3)

Red Deer is coming off one of their best wins of the season when they defeated the Everett Silvertips 6-2 on Monday. 19-year-old Josh Tarzwell has 17 goals on the season and is looking to extend his goal streak to three straight games. Saskatoon’s leading goal scorer, Chase Wouters, is also a 2000-born forward and has scored 8 of his 14 goals on the power play.

Josh Tarzwell-Brendan Semchuk (Andy Devlin)

Calgary Hitmen (18-11-4-1) @ Medicine Hat Tigers (23-11-1-1)

With the January 10 trade deadline fast approaching, Calgary made a move acquiring former Tri-City Americans captain, and Anaheim Ducks fourth round pick, Kyle Olson. To make room for the 20-year-old Olson, James Malm was traded to Tri-City. Medicine Hat currently holds a seven point lead over Calgary (two more games played) for third place in the division, but is only three points back of Lethbridge (with two games in hand). A win on Friday could go a long way in determining the Tigers playoff position.

Vancouver Giants (17-16-1-1) @ Kamloops Blazers (22-11-2-1)

The Blazers look to get back on track on Friday after dropping their last two games. High-end scoring is not an issue for Kamloops as they boast two of the top four point producers in the WHL – Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo. Last week Centazzo was named the WHL’s player of the week after registering three goals and four assists in two games. Vancouver is still without Bowen Byram who is looking to help advance Canada to the Gold Medal Game at the World Juniors. Newly acquired Tyler Preziuso just played his 300th game on Wednesday and has six points in seven games since joining the Giants.

Everett Silvertips (25-8-2-1) @ Prince George Cougars (9-21-2-3)

Friday marks the second time this season the Silvertips and Cougars meet. In their first matchup, Prince George left the Angel of the Winds arena with a 4-3 victory thanks to a game winning goal by Ilijah Colina. The North Delta, BC native is currently riding a four game point streak. Everett is in the middle of an extended six game road trip and are looking to keep pace with the Portland Winterhawks for the top spot in the U.S. Division. Captain Bryce Kindopp is tied for the WHL lead in goals with 28. The overager from Lloydminster, AB has 13 goals in his last 11 games.

Bryce Kindopp (Photo-Larry Brunt)

Portland Winterhawks (25-6-1-3) @ Spokane Chiefs (20-11-4-1)

Both teams boast players on extended point streaks. Eli Zummack has points in his last 13 games, Reece Newkirk in 11, and Adam Beckman has scored a goal in nine straight dating back to December 7. Portland is still without starting goalie Joel Hofer and winger Simon Knak who are away at World Juniors. Spokane is in a similar situation with Ty Smith and Lukáš Pařík. Portland is 9-0-0-1 in their last ten games helping them climb to the top of the division. Spokane is comfortably in third – eight points back of Everett and 14 ahead of Tri-City.

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