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On their eighth try, Victoria Royals find a way to beat Cougars

Three unanswered goals from visitors in second period doom Cougars to their 10th straight loss on CN Centre ice
Cougars vs. Victoria March 11 22
Cougars centre Riley Heidt takes the puck a little too deep while trying to beat Victoria Royals goalie Tyler Palmer during the third period Friday at CN Centre. The Royals won 5-3.

Saturday night is Beatles Night at CN Centre and the Prince George Cougars don’t think a Revolution is required  to break themselves out of their Helter Skelter funk.

They got themselves into this mess, so you have to figure they’ll come to the rink believing the mantra, We Can Work It Out and It Won’t Be Long before their next victory celebration.

After a 5-3 loss Friday to the visiting Victoria Royals, the Cougars simply have to Get Back to playing disciplined hockey and their lengthy losing streak will be Yesterday.

Knock on Norwegian Wood, Cougar fans, Because they’re going to need all the Help! their faithful followers can provide in the rematch with the Royals to end their 10-game home-ice losing streak.

Trying for their eighth win in eight tries against Victoria this season, the Cats got off on the right foot with a strong opening 10 minutes that had them ahead 2-0.

Ethan Samson collected his 12th of the season on a wrister from the point on a Prince George power play three minutes in, and defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk got in on the action a few minutes later when he took a fed from Fischer O’Brien and utilized a screen in front of goalie Tyler Palmer to score his first of the 2021-22 campaign.  

Victoria cut the lead in half late in the period when Matthew Hodson potted a rebound left on Tyler Brennan’s doorstep and the seed of doubt was cast.

Three unanswered goals from the Royals in the second period sealed the Cougars’ fate. They came out of the period trailing 4-2 and could  not complete the comeback in the third period.

A carryover penalty late in the first period set up the tying goal from Caleb Wilms, 37 seconds into the second and an undisciplined cross-check from Dowhaniuk behind the Cougar net with the play headed up the ice led to the third Royals’ goal from Riley Gannon, who had two whacks at the puck from close range before it went in.  

The gamewinner came less than a minute later when Carter Briltz centred the puck into the crease from below the goal line and found the stick blade of Anthony Wilson, who batted it in behind Brennan.

Koehn Ziemmer raised the Cougars hopes in the third period when he scored on a low wrister but they couldn’t buy another one, despite considerable pressure and a few close-in chances in the third period. Royals sniper Tarun Fizer added an empty-netter to cap the scoring.

“We played a good first 10 minutes but we started taking penalties (the Royals went 2-for-7 on the power play) and that kind of broke our rhythm,” said Cougar centre Craig Armstrong. “They’re a good team, and we didn’t take them lightly, we just didn’t play to the best of our abilities and lost the game.

“We had a different mindset tonight. We’ve been playing good hockey lately it’s just that we haven’t gotten breaks and we’ve taken too many penalties. I think as long as we stay with it, our breaks will come and we’ll start winning soon. I feel it with this group that we can bounce back and hopefully we will tomorrow.”  

The Cougars have now lost seven straight and 16 of their last 18 games. Fortunately, the Cats (19-32-2-1) remain in a playoff position, holding down eight place, one point ahead of Victoria (17-33-5-1) and tied in points with the seventh-place Spokane Chiefs, who lost 6-3 Friday in Everett.

Armstrong has been through this drill before with the Cougars, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2017.

“My first year (2018-19) we were kind of in the same position, in the playoff hunt right near the end of the year and we lost a lot of games that year, just like we have this year,” said Armstrong. “But I feel a different vibe with this group, that we can make the playoffs  and do well, and hopefully it comes.

“We have a lot of good pieces here and we’ve played decent hockey, we just haven’t got the breaks. We’re still in a playoff spot. Somebody has to beat us out and we just have to take care of business.”

LOOSE PUCKS: Including Saturday’s game, the Cougars and Royals play each other six more times this season… Attendance was 1,841, close to the Cougars’ average for the season… Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb was sick with the flu and stayed home for the game… Game time Saturday is 7 p.m.

Friday WHL summary

Royals 5 at Cougars 3

First Period

1. Prince George, Samson 12 (Heidt, Ziemmer) 3:17 (pp)

2. Prince George, Dowhaniuk 1 (O’Brien) 6:50

3. Victoria, Hodson 3 (Wilson, Newman) 14:44

Penalties – Newman Vic (tripping) 4:58, Singer PG (cross-checking) 8:55, MacAdams PG (tripping) 16:15, Brinson PG (hooking) 18:54.

Second Period

4. Victoria, Wilms 2 (Fizer, Schuurman) 0:37 (pp)

5. Victoria, Gannon 17 (Wilms, Hodson) 16:52 (pp)

6. Victoria, Wilson 6 (Briltz, Almquist) 17:43

Penalties – Gannon Vic (tripping) 7:40, Brondberg PG (hooking) 12:00, Dowhaniuk PG (cross-checking)  15:22.

Third Period

7. Prince George, Ziemmer 23 (Heidt) 1:32

8. Victoria, Fizer 13 (Shipley) 18:55 (en)

Penalties – McMaster Vic (interference), MacAdams PG (tripping) 0:33, Hooker PG (tripping) 11:39, Samson PG (tripping) 19:29.

Shots on goal by

Victoria 12           10           5             -27

Prince George    11           4             9             -25

Goal – Victoria, Palmer (W,12-18-2-0); Prince George, Brennan (L,10-20-1-1).

Power plays – Vic: 2-6; PG: 1-2.

Referees – Bryan Bourdon, Corey Koop; Linesmen – Anthony Maletta, Blair Scott.

Attendance – 1,841.