In a new series called the Royals Rewind, I will be spotlighting some of the more memorable games featuring the Victoria Royals over the course of their nine seasons as a franchise in the Western Hockey League.
Whether it be an overtime winner, a dominant goaltending performance or a heart-breaking loss, some moments deserve a second look.
Jan. 10, 2020 – Winterhawks Versus Royals
In the 2019-20 season, the Portland Winterhawks visited Victoria for a pair of games. A normal matchup against the Winterhawks was always of interest – a well-coached, talented club that seemed to always push the Royals to play their best hockey. The visit in January 2020 was special on a few other levels and multiple storylines were threaded throughout the game. In a season cut short, it was the best game of 2019-20 for the Victoria Royals.
The New Arrivals
The day before the game, the Royals pulled off a massive five-player, six-draft pick trade with the Moose Jaw Warriors at the 2019-20 WHL Trade Deadline. Included in the deal was Anaheim Ducks’ first-round NHL Draft pick Brayden Tracey going to the Royals. In 2018-19, Tracey recorded an 81-point rookie season as a 17-year-old and received the WHL rookie of the year award. Joining Tracey from Moose Jaw was goalie Adam Evanoff, who was expected to be the number one goaltender for the Warriors for the season, but was delayed while still bouncing back from offseason hip surgery.
Sitting in second place within the B.C. Division, the addition of Tracey and Evanoff would hopefully give a spark the Royals and was viewed as a further commitment to winning.
Related: Cody Glass Is Living Up to the Hype
Prior to the deal, the Royals were one of the quieter teams in terms of trades for the season. The deal with Moose Jaw caught much of the league and the team’s fans by surprise and created a buzz in the city of Victoria. With a rare winter snowstorm hammering the west coast, much of the travel was cancelled or delayed. Victoria fans wondered if the new players would make the quick turn-around and be available for the game versus Portland, the number three ranked team in the Canadian Hockey league.
Early on game day, the Royals confirmed that the new additions were being picked up and would indeed be available for Friday night’s game against Portland.
Golden Hero Hofer
The Royals’ Tracey and Evanoff weren’t the only players travelling to Victoria during a winter storm to join their team. Portland Winterhawks goaltender Joel Hofer was making his return after a successful World Juniors tournament in the Czech Republic the weekend before. Hofer back-stopped Team Canada to a gold medal, was awarded best goaltender, and was named to the tournament All-Star team
In his first game back on Canadian soil, the Royals recognized his golden achievement with a pregame acknowledgement. The Victoria fans then gave a loud and standing ovation to the opposing goaltender in a moment of national pride.
“It was pretty special,” said Hofer postgame. “I didn’t expect something quite like that, especially on the road. It definitely means a lot from the Royals fans. A pretty cool moment.”
Hofer was solid in net, despite still feeling some effects of travel. “A little jet lag,” he said. “After the game, it hit me a little harder than I expected. But I thought throughout the game I felt pretty good.”
The St.Louis Blues prospect stopped 29 of 31 shots in the game and definitely showed no signs of fatigue during the game.
Redemption for Farkas
At the other end of the ice, Hofer’s former teammate Shane Farkas was a man on a mission. The Royals’ goalie faced his former team the Winterhawks for the first time since being traded for his final year of junior hockey. The Penticton, BC product played for Portland from 2016 to 2019. Over those three seasons, he earned a 47-24-3-4 record, a 2.96 goals against average, a 0.902 save percentage and seven shutouts. Going into his final year in the WHL, the overage Farkas was caught in the numbers game and Portland decided to go with the younger Hofer.
The move was tough for Farkas, as he found himself looking for a team. “It was a very emotional time both up and down,” recalled Farkas. “I think the toughest thing was trying not to panic. I tried to tell myself this is going to work out one way or the other, and this isn’t the end.”
Victoria would end up being his destination, and acquired Farkas on May 2, 2019, to be the team’s starting goalie.
The match against Portland would be his first shot at redemption and he would make the most of the opportunity. Farkas was the game’s first star, turning aside 42 of the 43 shots he faced. He received a nice ovation, not only from the Victoria fans but a group of travelling Winterhawks fans. It would be a fitting end to the Portland chapter of his junior career.
“It meant a lot to me,” said Farkas of the cheers from the visiting fans. “I spent three years there [Portland] and I made a lot of friends. I got along well with everyone and it was fun being there. It meant a lot that they were paying attention and still supporting me, even though I was no longer on the Winterhawks roster.”
In retrospect, for Farkas, the overtime victory over his former club was the highlight of his junior career. “I don’t want to rank these things but the first one that comes to mind is beating the Winterhawks in Victoria. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.”
Tracey Proves True
In a fitting ending, it was the newcomer Tracey who finished the game off in overtime. Much to the delight of the local fans, a late Victoria goal took the teams to extra time. It was there that the 18-year-old from Calgary, AB beat Hofer to end the game, and halted Portland’s win streak at six games. The goal capped a whirlwind 24 hours for the forward.
When asked if it had all settled in yet, he said, “No, not really. It all kind of happened. I think had only been 24 hours [since the trade]. So, it has all happened real quick.”
Although it was not the prettiest goal, and even contested by the Winterhawks, the Royals took the win on the back of their new sniper’s winning goal.
A Night to Remember
In the midst of a January snowstorm, the Royals defeated the Winterhawks in an excellent hockey game. Most WHL games offer up one story or possibly two, however, the matchup on January 10, 2020, offered more than a few unique moments. To the arrival of newcomers after a blockbuster trade, a hero’s return, to finally the chance of payback against a former team – the overtime game deserved a second-look with the Royals Rewind.