ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Victoria Cougars snapped a five game winless skid on Thursday night.
A week removed from a disappointing setback, Victoria put together one of its most complete efforts of the season as it upended the Saanich Braves 6-5 in overtime.
Two minutes and 41 seconds into extra time, Jaden McNulty made a nifty backhand pass to Mateo Albinati who flipped the puck over Riley Mathieson for the game winner.
Things looked grim late in the third period with the Cougars trailing 5-4. That all changed when McNulty scored with three minutes and 18 seconds remaining.
With the win, Victoria is now only four points behind the first place Braves in the South Island Division standings.
The teams were tied at two after one period and tied at four after two.
Affiliate player Rowan Miller, Carl Ewert, Akila Sato-Gaudreau, and Darwin Lakoduk also scored for the Cougars (22-19-2-1).
Goaltender Patrick Ostermann stopped 45 shots for his league leading 17th win.
Dale McCabe, Michael Sproule, Cameron LeSergent, Trevor Owens, and Gavin Grewal replied for Saanich (23-16-2-3) who scored three of its goals on the power play.
After allowing only one goal in his last game, Mathieson was torched six times on 32 shots.
Miller and Ewert gave Victoria a 2-0 lead before the game was just over two minutes old.
At 1:12, Sato-Gaudreau centered the puck to Miller who notched his second goal of the season. Ewert doubled the lead at 2:02 after banging home an Alexander Benger rebound.
The Cougars got a huge lift when Sato-Gaudreau returned to the lineup after missing three games due to injury. Sato-Gaudreau, who was shaken up on three separate occasions throughout the game, finished with three points.
McCabe, on the power play, and Sproule, off a breakaway, tied the game before the end of the period.
The Braves took a 3-2 lead at 1:51 of the second period when LeSergent was able to skate in all alone and score after defenseman Landon Kitchen blew a tire at the Victoria blue line.
Sato-Gaudreau tied the game with a power play goal after banging in his own rebound at 12:11.
Saanich took the lead again. At 16:31 and with Lakoduk in the penalty box for hooking, Owens one-timed a centering pass from Sproule for the go-ahead goal.
But with 27 seconds remaining in the period, Lakoduk tried to feed Foster Martin the puck only to have his pass bounce off defenseman Nash Kellett and in for an own goal.
A power play goal from Grewal at 9:50 of the third period gave the Braves their third lead of the game.
At 16:42, McNulty would send the game to overtime.
Kyle Wade left in the first period with a lower body injury and did not return. The injury to Wade left Victoria with only 15 skaters.
The Cougars now embark on a four game road trip to end the regular season.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Logan Cursley and Jake McKenzie each had a goal and an assist to lead the Campbell River Storm to a 5-3 win over the Nanaimo Buccaneers in front of 360 fans at Nanaimo Ice Centre.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, February 9 versus the Campbell River Storm.