The Victoria Royals recorded a statement win Friday night against a team looking for a statement season.
The Royals scored two unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Western Hockey League top-ranked Prince George Cougars 5-3 at CN Centre.
The Royals began the second period with three goals in the first minute and 13 seconds by Tanner Scott, Dawson Pasternak and Ben Riche. It was the flash-quick Scott’s fourth goal and eighth point in his past four games to lead the team in scoring with 34 points.
But a pair of goals by Zac Funk, his league-leading 31st and 32nd of the season, and one by Minnesota Wild second-round draft pick Riley Heidt brought the Cougars level going into the second break.
Import forward Casper Evensen-Haugen, who will represent his native Norway in the 2024 Tier-2 world junior championship, put Victoria back into the lead at 1:29 of the third period. Defenceman Ryan Spizawka provided the insurance goal.
Braden Holt made 35 saves in goal for Victoria while Joshua Ravensbergen and Ty Young combined for only 16 saves for Prince George.
The Royals and Cougars went into the game after each having won three consecutive road games. Victoria pushed that to four consecutive road wins. For the first time since 2019-20, the Royals (18-11-2) are in play in the top half of the Western Conference standings and are four points behind the leading Cougars (21-8), making this a potential swing weekend for both clubs, as they meet again Saturday night in Prince George, with the Cougars holding two games in hand.
Saturday's game is the Cougars Teddy Bear & Toque Toss event.