Royals Head Coach Dan Price felt his team needed a spark in the third period. A late goal in the second by the Prince George Cougars (23-36-5-4) led to three unanswered goals and a 3-2 lead over the Victoria Royals (38-25-4-2) early in the third period. Looking to shift the momentum, Price swapped his goaltender Dean McNabb for regular starter Griffen Outhouse. “Very difficult decision as Dean was playing so well, there were times when he really kept us in the game.” said Price, “We needed a change in momentum, something to spark the troops, unfortunately it came with a goalie change.” The move paid off, as the Royals responded with energy and poise, eventually tying the game and then winning in overtime via a goal from Tanner Kaspick.
The Cougars traveled to Vancouver Island on Friday to face the Royals for third time in a week. The previous meeting saw Prince George pull out an overtime victory in a game that saw the goaltenders shine. While the Royals had clinched a playoff spot and were hunting for a possible divisional title, the Cougars were looking to play spoiler of those plans as their season has fallen short of the post-season. The Royals hit the ice in their colorful jerseys to support WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry in support of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
Victoria opened the scoring at 10:55 as a trickling rebound came to Dante Hannoun who easily stick-handled it past Cougars goalie Tavin Grant. The 24th goal of the season for Hannoun gave Victoria the ever important first strike of the game. Kaspick added to the Royals lead 4:55 of the second, as he raced down the wing to drive in on Grant and tuck it home to extend the lead to 2-0.
Prince George responded in the back half of the second period, and forced McNabb to come up with some timely saves. Reid Perepeluk was able to beat McNabb with a shot from an awkward angel that banked off the Royals goalie and in. For Perepeluk, a 6th round pick of the Cougars in the 2015 WHL Bantam draft, it was his first Western Hockey League goal.
Congratulations to @PGCougars Reid Perepeluk on scoring his first WHL goal tonight.
— DUBNetwork (@dub_network) March 10, 2018
The Royals and their fans were upset with the goal, as Chaz Reddekopp was dumped behind the net just prior to the shot and they felt a penalty should have been called. After a lengthy chat with the Victoria bench, the referees dropped the puck. Shortly after, Kaspick was hauled down with no call, and the “boo-birds” rained down to close out the second period.
Prince George tied it up early in the third period, as an innocent looking shot from Rhett Rhinehart found it’s way past McNabb, beating the Royals goalie up high at 3:58. A few minutes later the Cougars took their first lead of the game as Aaron Boyd made a nice pass from behind the net to Josh Maser, who made no mistake for his 28th goal of the year.
With the momentum clearly in the Cougars favour with a sudden 3-2 lead, Price made his goalie switch. The Victoria crowd of 6,629 also sensing their team needed a boost, kicked off the “Lets Go Royals” chants and broke out the wave. The team responded immediately and began taking back possession from the Cougars.
At 17:03, Tyler Soy scored on a tap-in as the side of the net to tie the game just as a Victoria powerplay ended. Assists went to Matthew Phillips and Hannoun, and like so often this season it was Victoria’s top line that proved to be valuable in the clutch. As regulation time finished and both teams were tied at three, the game headed to overtime.
In the extra frame it was Kaspick with the game-winner at 2:39 of overtime, his second goal of the evening. Similar to his first goal, Kaspick cut hard to the net and was able to tuck in five-hole through Grant for the 4-3 OT win. For the 19-year-old forward, it was his third overtime winner since joining the Royals 22 games ago. “I saw an opening wide, tried to drop my shoulder to protect the puck as best I can and get it to the far post. ” Said Kaspick post-game,” I kind of attempted it a few times tonight, it worked out a couple. My legs felt good, I felt I had some speed and I always like to use my size and strength to my advantage. Fortunately it was working for me today.”
Despite a collapse in the second period where they allowed the Cougars to gain momentum, the Royals were able to spark themselves in time to comeback for the win and ensure themselves an important two points as they chase the Kelowna Rockets for the divisional title. Victoria sits three points behind the Rockets, who have a game in hand.
After a day of rest on Saturday, both teams resume action on a Sunday matinée in Victoria, with puck drop at 2:05pm at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena.
- Soy Special– On a night where the Royals wore special jerseys to raise awareness of organ donation, Tyler Soy took the honorary faceoff as his mother Sandy, a kidney transplant recipient, dropped the opening puck. Tyler’s father was also a kidney donor, making it a special family moment for the Soys. “That moment with my mom out there was pretty special, and it shone a light on organ donation.” said Soy.
- Another Record– Also of note for Soy on the evening was that he played in his 320th game for Victoria, which tied he record held by former Royals defenceman Ryan Gagnon.
- Brickhouse– In coming in on relief duty tonight and eventually getting the win, Griffen Outhouse has now tied a franchise record for most wins in a season with 34. Outhouse himself set that record in the 2016-17 campaign.
- Mr.Production– Tanner Kaspick is continues to improve in points per game production, with his career progression on the upswing :