VICTORIA, BC – The rest did the Prince George Cougars some good. Coming out of their week-long Christmas break, the Cougars gutted out a 5-3 win over the Victoria Royals Wednesday, at Save on Foods Memorial Centre.
Joel Lakusta snapped the Cougars’ lengthy goalless drought and finished with a pair of goals, and Nic Holowko, Jackson Leppard and Josh Maser also found the back of the net. Tavin Grant picked up his ninth win of the season, stopping 36-shots and was named the Second Star. Kody McDonald had a game-high three assists and was named the First Star
The win snapped the Cougars’ three-game winless skid and it was also their first road win since November 15th.
It was an eventful first period, as the two teams combined for six goals inside the first 15-minutes, as the two teams were tied 3-3 after the opening frame.
Lakusta scored the Cougars’ first goal since the third period on December 15th, snapping a two-game goalless streak, as his shot from the blue-line went post-and-in behind Griffen Outhouse four-minutes into the game.
Victoria did answer on the power-play when Noah Gregor, from his knees, scoring on a rebound at the top of the crease at 6:31. Tavin Grant stopped Dante Hannoun but Gregor was there to backhand the rebound in behind the Cougars’ netminder.
The Cougars, in particular Holowko, had a great response, scoring just 10-seconds after Gregor to put the Cougars back ahead. On the very next shift, Holowko came out of the corner, made a move to the net, and tucked the puck underneath the pad of Outhouse on the far-side. Holowko’s fourth and first as a Cougar putting the visitors ahead 2-1.
The Royals countered, scoring twice in less than a minute in a half to go ahead 3-2. First, Tyler Soy tied it 2-2 when the puck bounced off his leg and in as he was breaking to the net. Chaz Redddekopp’s point-shot hit a stick out front before caroming off of Soy at 10:28. Just a minute and a half later, Matt Phillips gave the home side their first lead of the night, jamming the puck in between Grant and the post during a Royals power-play. Phillips scoring his team-best 25th at 12:03 putting the Royals up 3-2.
Just before the 15-minute mark, the Cougars got a power-play and made the most of it. Seven-seconds into the man-advantage, Jack Leppard redirected the puck in with his skate, after Kody McDonald’s shot knuckled over to him at the top of the crease. After a short video review, the goal stood, as Leppard was ruled to have made legal contact outside of the crease with his skate. His eighth at of the season tying it 3-3 at 14:48.
Once the dust settled, the two teams combined for six goals and 27 shots in the opening frame. It was a much different story in the second, as there was just one goal and it was the Cougars’ power-play leaving its mark.
Not even three-minutes into the second, Maser pounced on a rebound at the top of the crease and made no mistake. Outhouse had a shot spill off his chest and fall right to Maser, who quickly swatted his backhand attempt past the Victoria netminder at 2:54. Maser scoring his team-best sixth power-play goal and 14th on the season.
That was the only goal in the second, as Grant was less busy in the middle frame, stopping eight-shots. His best stop in that period was when Victoria was short-handed, as Grant got his glove up on Matt Phillips’ attempt, on a two-on-one rush late.
The Royals made a push in the third but couldn’t get any of the 14-shots past Grant. After allowing three goals on 17 shots in the first, Grant was perfect on 22-shots over the final 40-minutes.
Lakusta sealed it with an empty-net goal with just three-seconds left, picking off a wayward pass in the neutral zone, and scoring from on his own side of the redline.
Final Score: 5-3 Cougars
Shots: 39-27 Royals
Power-Plays: Cougars 2-8 Royals 2-7
Three Stars: 1) Kody McDonald 2) Dante Hannoun 3) Tavin Grant.
Lakusta’ two goals moved his season total to four, which is a new career high for the Cougars defenceman. Maser’s goal Wednesday, gives him four in three games against the Royals. The Cougars are now 2-0-1-0 against the Royals and have picked up five out of six points this season against their division rival.