Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 28, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Jansen Harkins goal in the fourth round of the shoot-out gave the Prince George Cougars a 3-2 win over the Victoria Royals Monday night in a well-played Western Hockey League (WHL) game in front of 4.905 fans at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.
The Royals Logan Fisher (20) looks for some room to maneuver in close to the net during Monday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win avenges the Cougars 6-2 loss to the Royals on Sunday night and gives the Cougars a 2-2 split in the four-game set against the Royals that started with a pair of games in Prince George on December 18th and 19th, a 2-0 Royals win and an 8-2 Prince George win respectively.
As befits two teams who are now just a single point apart in the standings, this game was an evenly played affair, with shots at the end of regulation sitting at 36-34 Royals.
Royals defenceman Chaz Reddekopp (29) finds himself on the offensive side of things as he tries to bat a puck past Prince George goalie Nick McBride (33) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals would hold a 1-0 lead after the first period, thanks to a pretty goal from Vladimir Bobylev, who took a nice feed from Tyler Soy and snapped it high past Cougars goalie Nick McBride. Bobylev’s goal should have been the Royals second of the frame – at least according to all the fans in attendance – as moments earlier, a Matthew Phillips penalty shot forced McBride all the way into the net with the puck under him. Somehow though, he was able to inch the puck back into the blue paint before getting up and the goal was not allowed.
The Royals Tyler Soy (17) slips the puck through the feet of Cougars defenceman Tate Olson on this play Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Cougars would strike for a power-play goal by Tate Olson at the 8:38 mark of the second to tie the score 1-1, but just over two minutes later, Alex Forsberg would restore the Royals lead with a power-play goal of his own. The Royals had another opportunity later in the frame to capitalize on another power-play, but it would be the Cougars who would turn the tables, with Chase Witala snapping home a short-handed laser beam of a shot past Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath, to tie the score 2-2.
Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath comes up with a big toe save during second period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
An exciting and back and forth third period solved nothing and when the Cougars and goaltender McBride staved off the early part of a five-on-three Royals powerplay in the final minute of regulation, the game headed to overtime.
The Royals Tyler Soy (17) draws the attention of four Prince George Cougars during this log jam in front of goaltender Nick McBride in the second period Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In a strange twist of the rules, the normal three-on-three overtime began with the continuation of the Royals five-on-three powerplay, but after the Cougars killed off the remainder of that, the teams skated five-on-five with no whistle until there was just 30 seconds left in the extra frame.
Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath would get just enough of his glove on this shot to deflect it wide during the second period Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the shootout, after Victoria’s Jack Walker and the Cougar’s Jesse Gabrielle traded goals to begin, both teams missed twice and after Victoria’s Soy missed on the first extra shot, Prince George’s Jansen Harkins beat Vollrath cleanly to give the Cougars the win.
The Royals Vladimir Bobylev charges toward the Cougars net for a third period scoring opportunity. Bobylev would earlier score one of the Royals two goals (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Despite the loss, Royals interim Head Coach Ennio Sacilotto – filling in for Dave Lowry who is in Helsinki with the World Juniors – was positive about the team’s performance, “All our guys left everything on the ice and everyone contributed. We wanted that going in and we got it, we just could not get the break to win it. It was a really good game by both sides, but I have to give them a lot of credit. Things were getting a little out of hand in that second period, but both teams regrouped and it was one heck of a third period and an overtime.”
The Royals Jack Walker lets a shot fly during third period action Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals remain in second place in the Western Conference with 47 points, just one more than the third place Cougars and eight points behind first place Kelowna. The Royals will look to stay in that position as they head out to spend New Years in Kamloops, with a game on Wednesday evening and then a quick turn-around for a rematch at 2:00 pm on New Year’s Day. They then follow that up with a big game against Kelowna on Saturday Jan. 2nd before coming home to host the Tri-City Americans for a pair of games on Tuesday and Wednesday Jan. 5th and 6th.
The Royals Tyler Soy would come up short on this third period breakaway (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: The Royals outshot the Cougars 39-34 for the game, the first time in the four game set that they have done so. In another scheduling quirk, this marks the fourth year in a row that the Royals and Cougars have met on December 28th. Victoria Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath has now surpassed former Chilliwack Bruins netminder Lucas Gore for most minutes played in franchise history with 7,726 heading into Monday’s game.
The Royals Jack Walker leads the charge into the Cougars zone on a third period powerplay opportunity (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)