ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Victoria Cougars have earned a spot in the Cyclone Taylor Cup final.
But it did not come easy.
Victoria squandered a three-goal lead early in the third period yet still managed to outlast the Mission City Outlaws 7-5 in a wild and woolly game on Saturday night.
Nathan Looysen (2), Ryan Carson (2), Brett Lervold, Austin Wilk, and Cody Hodges scored for the Cougars who dominated the first two periods.
Victoria finished round-robin play with a perfect 3-0 record and will face the 100 Mile House Wranglers at two o’clock Sunday afternoon for the right to represent British Columbia at the Keystone Cup.
Looysen opened the scoring at 4:17 of the first period after he was left all alone in the slot.
Mission City, on a goal by Brody Dyck, tied the game when his shot trickled behind the outstretched arm of Gregory Maggio at 9:15. Then at 12:25, Carson restored the lead after beating Jeff Veitch from 20 feet out.
Both goals came on the power play.
Lervold made it 3-1 at 3:39 of the second period. A floating point shot from Wilk extended the Cougars advantage at 12:04. Hodges would bang in his own rebound 38 seconds later to give Victoria a commanding 5-1 lead.
So it seemed.
At 16:06, Kolby Steen found the back of the net during a mad scramble in front of Maggio.
Needing a win to guarantee a spot in the Cyclone Taylor Cup final, Mission City pulled out all the stops in the final 20 minutes.
The Outlaws scored three goals in a span of four minutes and 12 seconds to tie the game at 5-5.
Baylee Wright beat Maggio through a screen only 34 ticks in.
Leading by two goals, Jesse Kestenbaum was sent off for interference. 76 seconds later, the Cougars lost Austin Wilk who was assessed a game misconduct for checking Nick Thompson to the head.
Thompson would later return to the game.
On the two-man advantage, Bryce Pisiak pulled the Outlaws to within one at 3:53. Mission City, which went 3-for-3 with the man advantage, tied the game at 4:46 on a power play goal by Tristan Dundas.
All of a sudden the game was even.
A melee in front of Maggio resulted in Cougars defenseman Nico Somerville getting a holding penalty and Outlaws six-foot-four, 215-pound forward Ryan Sharma receiving a goaltender interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
On the ensuing power play, Carson got a hold of the puck after it bounced off the end boards and fired a backhander behind Veitch for the game winner at 10:19.
Victoria finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage.
And with 70 seconds remaining in regulation, Looysen won a footrace to the puck and slid it into the empty net to seal the win.
Shots on goal were 36-30 in favour of the Cougars.
The third place game will feature Mission City and the Campbell River Storm.
PLAYER OF THE GAME (VICTORIA COUGARS): Ryan Carson
PLAYER OF THE GAME (MISSION CITY OUTLAWS): Bryce Pisiak