ESQUIMALT, B.C. – Nathan Looysen scored twice and Anthony Ciurro made 32 saves to help the Victoria Cougars beat the 100 Mile House Wranglers 4-2 Thursday night.
It was the opening game of the Cyclone Taylor Cup for both teams.
Playing in front of a large contingent at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, Victoria held off a furious late Wranglers rally to preserve the win.
After pulling to within one with just over six minutes remaining in regulation; 100 Mile House turned it up a notch.
However, Ciurro made save after save to bail out his team.
Dale Hladun thought his team lassoed the equalizer with 2:04 left but the goal was waived off by referee Ryan O’Keeffe who ruled that the puck was batted in with a high stick.
Following a scoreless first period, thanks to some huge stops by Ciurro, the Cougars opened the scoring on a goal by Looysen at 1:16 of the middle frame.
Taking a pass from former KIJHL standout Cody Hodges in the neutral zone, Looysen skated around Austin Turner before beating Wranglers goalie Zane Steeves.
Victoria went ahead 2-0 when Jordan Passmore tipped home a Bryton Beattie wrist shot at 3:15.
But 100 Mile House did not wilt. In fact, they got stronger.
On a partial breakaway, Tyler Povelofskie rang the puck off the crossbar and in at 6:18 to cut the deficit in half.
The Cougars did not do themselves any favours as they racked up three penalties in the second period and three more in the third.
One of those third period penalties was assessed to Ryan Lawson who had played a total of 119 games in the KIJHL prior to getting traded to Victoria in mid-January. 56 seconds after the penalty, Looysen scored shorthanded to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead at 3:36.
The Wranglers went back on the power play with just under seven minutes to play. Pulling out all the stops, Hladun yanked Steeves for an extra attacker.
At 13:36, Turner had his point shot redirected in by Justin Bond and all of a sudden it was a one goal game.
100 Mile House called a timeout with less than a minute remaining in regulation. With Steeves back at the bench, Hodges sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 5.7 seconds left on the clock.
One of Victoria’s strength all season has been special teams and it played a key role in the win. The Cougars went 5-for-6 on the penalty kill.
Steeves stopped 26 shots.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, April 8 against the Campbell River Storm. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:30 p.m.
PLAYER OF THE GAME (VICTORIA): Nathan Looysen
PLAYER OF THE GAME (100 MILE HOUSE): Tyler Povelofskie