Zemlak’s Three Points Propels Royals to 5-4 Victory Over Thunderbirds
Kent, WA – It was another Pacific Northwest rivalry game as the Victoria Royals (17-11-0-2) squared off with the Seattle Thunderbirds (11-11-1-0) for the third time this season. Victoria came into action looking for their third straight win after knocking off the Kamloops Blazers in back-to-back occasions, while the Thunderbirds are coming off a 3-2 victory in their most recent outing against the Kelowna Rockets.
It was a date to circle for Royals’ fans as their fourth overall selection from the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft made his WHL debut after being recalled earlier in the morning.
The 20-year-old netminder Braden Holt returned to the crease for Victoria after watching his goalie partner Jayden Kraus register back-to-back wins, while Scott Ratzlaff earned the start for Seattle.
Seattle was able to continue a trend that they have established this season against the Royals as they captured the opening goal for the third time this season against Victoria. Jeremy Hanzel opened the scoring just over four minutes into the frame as he notched his seventh of the season on the man advantage.
Victoria struck back midway through the opening period, showcasing their resilience once again. Nate Misskey let a wrist shot go from the blueline that deflected on its way towards the net, beating Ratzlaff and evening things up at one apiece.
They wouldn’t waste any time in grabbing their first lead of the game, as just 17 seconds later, Ben Riche joined the double-digit goal club, grabbing his tenth of the season on a perfectly placed cross-seam pass from Hudson Bjornson.
That would be the final of three goals in the opening frame as the Royals carried a one-goal lead into the middle frame.
It was a low-event second period in Kent, as both teams were looking to find an advantage throughout the middle twenty. Victoria turned the shot count back against the Thunderbirds, outpacing them 9-5 in the period.
There was finally a break in defense in the final stages of the period as Victoria capitalized on their fifth powerplay of the game. Dawson Pasternak notched his eighth goal of the season, receiving a drop pass from Austin Zemlak in his own end. Pasternak proceeded to weave his way through the Thunderbirds’ defense before sliding the puck past Ratzlaff.
That was the only goal in the middle frame as the Royals brought a two-goal lead into the final frame.
Victoria continued the momentum into the third as it took all of 27 seconds for them to extend their lead to three goals. Reggie Newman tallied his tenth goal of the season, and fifth in his last six, on a tic-tac-toe play with his linemates, Tanner Scott and Robin Sapousek.
The Thunderbirds wouldn’t go away without a fight as they earned a tally of their own just minutes after Victoria extended their lead. It was a carbon copy of their opening goal as Jeremy Hanzel notched the powerplay goal with assistance from Mynio and Sawchyn.
Austin Zemlak had other ideas as he notched his sixth of the season and third point on the night, letting a wrist shot go from the blue line that found its way past Ratzlaff. Robin Sapouŝek and Reggie Newman drew the assists on the play as they both earned their second points on the night.
The back-and-forth period continued as Seattle struck again as Sawyer Mynio tallied his fourth of the season to once again pull the Thunderbirds within a pair. Seattle wasn’t done there as they added a third powerplay marker late in the third, with Gracyn Sawchyn tallying his fourth point of the night to make it a one-goal contest.
A final push from Seattle fell just shy as Victoria held off the frantic push en route to a crucial 5-4 victory.
After the game, Head Coach James Patrick empashized the importance of winning in a hostile environment.
“It’s a huge win for the team. Obviously every two points is is really important, but it’s been a long time since we’ve won in this building. So I think to get over that hurdle was a big challenge.”
Looking ahead, the Royals will travel into Prince George for a pair of weekend games.
“It’s going to be a great test for us. We know they’re a very good team and a lot of depth on that team. You can say from top to bottom that their defence, forwards and goaltending are all strong. But we’re feeling a little better about ourselves now than before,” stated Patrick. “We look at it as a real good challenge, we’re going to go out there and we got a day to travel, a day to get ready, and then we’ll figure out a way we can play our best against them.”
4:27 – Seattle Thunderbirds Goal (PP)
Jeremy Hanzel (7) assisted by Sawyer Mynio and Gracyn Sawchyn
13:25 – Victoria Royals Goal
Nate Misskey (6) assisted by Austin Zemlak and Cole Reschny
13:42 – Victoria Royals Goal
Ben Riche (10) assisted by Hudson Bjornson and Ryan Spizawka
17:49 – Victoria Royals Goal (PP)
Dawson Pasternak (8) assisted by Austin Zemlak
0:27 – Victoria Royals Goal
Reggie Newman (10) assisted by Robin Sapouŝek and Tanner Scott
4:40 – Seattle Thunderbirds Goal (PP)
Jeremy Hanzel (8) assisted by Sawyer Mynio and Gracyn Sawchyn
10:24 – Victoria Royals Goal
Austin Zemlak (6) assisted by Reggie Newman and Robin Sapouŝek
15:43 – Seattle Thunderbirds Goal (PP)
Sawyer Mynio (4) assisted by Eric Alarie and Gracyn Sawchyn
18:55 – Seattle Thunderbirds Goal (PP)
Gracyn Sawchyn (5) assisted by Sawyer Mynio and Jeremy Hanzel
Shots On Goal
Royals – 21
Thunderbirds – 36
Royals – 1/6
Thunderbirds – 3/5
Braden Holt – 32/36
Scott Ratzlaff – 16/21
The Royals will head north as they continue on with their lengthy road swing away from the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. They will square off with the Prince George Cougars in a pair of weekend games at the CN Centre. The opening game will take place on Friday night with puck drop slated to take place at 7:00PM.