CHLGOTW: Victoria vs. Kelowna — Five to watch
It’s an all-B.C. Division clash tonight as the Victoria Royals (25-17-8) visit the Kelowna Rockets (22-24-3) in Wednesday’s CHL Game of the Week.
With 18 games left in the regular season, the Royals look poised to return to the WHL Playoffs for the first time since 2018-19. Sitting eight games over .500, the Royals are on track as they sit 19 points above ninth place in the WHL’s Western Conference.
After an 8-7-1 start to the season, James Patrick, who played 1,280 NHL games and led the Winnipeg ICE to a combined 110 wins over the past two seasons, took over behind the Royals bench. With Patrick in charge, the Royals have gone 17-10-7 and have collected a point in at least 24 of their 34 games.
Overage forward Dawson Pastrnak has already established new career highs in all offensive categories as has ’04 forward Tanner Scott. Cole Reschny, who isn’t NHL Draft eligible until 2025, sits third in team scoring while Justin Kipkie (ARI) has seen his game come on leaps and bounds in his second full WHL season. In all, the Royals’ 3.44 goals-per-game average is its highest since the 72-game 2017-18 season.
As for the Rockets, they’re hoping to be postseason bound for the third straight year. Currently two games under .500, Kelowna sits sixth in the Western Conference and eight points clear of ninth-placed Tri-City.
The club’s offence goes through Andrew Cristall (WSH) who sits tied sixth in WHL scoring while offseason acquisition and 2024 NHL Draft prospect Tij Iginla leads the club in goals.
Keeping the puck out of the net has been the Rockets’ biggest challenge this year; their 200 goals against are the fifth most in the WHL this season but that can be attributed to a penalty kill that has conceded 57 goals.
Both clubs sit middle of the pack in regards to the power play with the Rockets owning a 21 per cent success rate with the Royals marginally behind them at 20.6 per cent.
In addition to Cristall and Kipkie, Caden Price (SEA) is also NHL drafted while Victoria’s Nate Misskey and Kelowna’s Hiroki Gojsic join Iginla as 2024 NHL Draft prospects to keep tabs on.
Tonight is the sixth meeting this year between the clubs with Victoria holding a 4-1-0 edge although the clubs have not met since Nov. 14. In 39 meetings over the past five years, the Rockets have a slight advantage with a 20-16-3 record.
With the postseason fast approaching, every point matters at this point of the season. Fans can watch tonight’s game on CHL TV and TSN+ at 7:05pm PT.
Andrew Cristall — Kelowna
In his third full WHL season, Cristall (WSH) continues to do nothing but fill the statsheet.
Through 43 games, Cristall has 78 points (28 goals) to sit tied sixth in WHL scoring while his 1.81 point-per-game average ranks third. A year ago, the 40th overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft finished with 95 points while this year he’s on pace for 112 which would make him just the seventh Rockets skater to surpass 100 points in a season. The Burnaby, B.C., native is also just three points shy of 250 in his WHL career.
Internationally, the 19-year-old has also claimed two medals recently; gold at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and bronze at the 2023 U18 World Championships.
Goal number 28 on the season for number 28.
— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) January 27, 2024
Tij Iginla — Kelowna
Iginla’s first season in Kelowna really couldn’t be going any better.
In 45 games, Iginla has scored 34 goals, tied for fifth most in the WHL while his 60 points are the third most among Rockets skaters.
His performance this year has also seen his NHL draft stock rocket; in NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings he was rated as the 11th best North American skater for the 2024 NHL Draft.
A year ago, the 18-year-old helped Seattle claim the Ed Chynoweth Cup as a rookie.
Tij Iginla is ready for #CHLKTP 😤
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) January 20, 2024
Justin Kipkie — Victoria
A year ago, Kipkie (ARI) showed glimpses of the offence he can provide from Victoria’s blue line.
This year, he’s really shown that he can put up points as a d-man. In 49 games, his 15 goals are the third most among WHL blueliners while his 41 points rank tied ninth.
Kipkie, who was drafted 160th overall in the 2023 NHL Draft, ranks sixth all-time in Royals scoring among defencemen with 74 while his 23 goals are tied third most.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 28, 2024
Dawson Pasternak — Victoria
In his first season with the Royals, the overage forward has smashed all his previous offensive career highs.
Acquired from Brandon in the offseason, Pasternak’s 20 goals and 52 points are new career highs. Furthermore, 20 of his points have come on the man advantage while his three game-winning goals trails only Kipkie’s four.
Cole Reschny — Victoria
Reschny isn’t draft eligible until 2025 but that doesn’t mean the hype around him is quiet.
The third overall pick in the 2022 WHL Draft, Reshcny ranks fifth in rookie scoring with 43 points while his 0.96 point-per-game average ranks fourth.
The 16-year-old has also taken 572 faceoffs this year, the second most on the Royals roster.
Reschny Hat-trick 🎩🎩🎩 pic.twitter.com/QRR5joYpo5
— Victoria Royals (@victoriaroyals) November 29, 2023