Historically, the Victoria Cougars have never done well in shootouts…Until now.
Steve Axford and Nathan Chen-Mack each scored shootout goals to give Victoria a 4-3 win over the Peninsula Panthers on Friday night.
Evan Roch, who was celebrating his birthday, stopped Dane Gibson in the third round to preserve the victory.
Panthers’ Josh Bloomenthal, with the help of Gibson and Trevor Yee, sent the game to overtime with 14.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
It was Yee’s first game back in a Peninsula uniform. Yee, along with future considerations, were traded from the Kerry Park Islanders to the Panthers in exchange for Cole and Kyle Peterson.
Peninsula gave the league leading Cougars a run for their money despite getting outshot 36-14. Shots-on-goal were 12-4 after one period, 19-8 after two, and 33-14 after 60 minutes.
Playing four aside, Jake Bryan got the hometown crowd on its feet when he opened the scoring at 8:41 of the first period. From just inside the blueline, Bryan wired a slap shot that eluded Roch.
Later in the period, Jake Stolz rang the puck off the iron. That would be one of several posts Victoria would hit throughout the game.
The score remained 1-0 in favour of the Panthers until the 6:31 mark of the second period. From the point, Robert Zadra had his shot tipped home by Steve Axford.
Penalties to Stolz and Zadra in a span of 29 seconds put Peninsula on an extended powerplay. However, the Panthers managed only one shot on goal during the two man advantage.
With Zadra still in the penalty box, Victoria got caught on a line change which resulted in five Peninsula players playing against two Cougar players. Luckily for Victoria, Roch denied Kayle Ramsey from scoring his first goal of the season.
A boarding penalty to Jamie Gallo at 18:02 put the Cougars on their sixth powerplay of the night. Axford, from the blueline, fed the puck down low to Chris Bannister who beat Kylar Stern from a sharp angle. Bannister’s goal, which was scored at 18:26, was his third tally in the last two games.
Brody Coulter put the Panthers on a late powerplay after he was called for high-sticking. But good penalty killing from Mark Walton allowed precious time to run off the clock.
Ramsey tied the game at 2:59 of the third period after poor defensive zone coverage by Victoria. But the visitors would regain the lead 15 seconds later when Stolz’s shot was deflected in by Axford.
The Cougars received a two-man powerplay for one minute and 25-seconds after Bryan and Bloomenthal were penalized in two separate tripping instances.
A crossbar and a post later, the score remained 3-2 until Bloomenthal’s goal in the dying seconds.
In overtime, Peninsula squandered a glorious opportunity in the opening minute. Left unguarded and a wide open net to shoot at, Joe Densmore was unable to handle Tyler Porteous’ cross ice pass.
Sam Rice went coast-to-coast for Victoria but his backhander was turned aside by Stern.
The Cougars received a powerplay for the final 15 seconds of overtime when Chris McDonald played with a broken stick.
After Porteous was stopped by Roch in the shootout, Axford scored on his attempt. In Round 2, both Densmore and Chen-Mack found the back of the net. Gibson was up next for the Panthers and had to score for the shootout to continue. Unfazed by the pressure, Roch made the save with his pad to give Victoria its sixth win in a row.
The Cougars, 2-0 in shootouts this season, improved to 26-5-0-1 on the season.
Peninsula dropped to 13-12-0-2.
Victoria went 1-for-10 on the powerplay and a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.
Next game for the Cougars is Thursday, January 12 against the Peninsula Panthers. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:15 p.m.
1st star, Steve Axford (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
2nd star, Kylar Stern (Saves: 33, Save Percentage: .917)
3rd star, Josh Bloomenthal (Goals: 1, Assists, 0)