In the second game of the Royals’ season, it was the Price George Cougars who came away with the two points. This one felt like a loss that was snatched from the jaws of victory. Victoria was hoping to prove the doubters wrong after a performance Friday that was less than stellar. The game against the Rockets was a great example of a young team that simply got overwhelmed. After a couple of days of practice and rest, it was time to get back to work and right the ship.
Early in the first period Brandon Cutler flew down the wing and lasered a shot top corner for an early lead. Shortly after, the momentum took a hit when Evanoff made a save from the faceoff dot, but was not able to corral the rebound. It sat in the crease for an easy tap-in.
Partway through the period, the Royals were awarded a power play and you could immediately notice Keanu Derungs. His work on the walls and in front of the net was exactly what the Royals needed especially after going 0-for-4 against the Rockets.
A Fizer miscue at the blueline led to a short-handed breakaway, Prince George could not capitalize though.
The Cougars took a 2-1 lead on a short side rocket over the glove of the Royals keeper. A short time later we saw something that would perfectly summarize Adam Evanoff’s night. A great, high danger save in tight, followed by poor rebound control once again, leading to a tap in goal on a Prince George powerplay.
Finally, towards the end of the first, Derungs was rewarded for his hard work with a power-play goal from right in front of the Cougars net.
To start the second, Tarun Fizer scored his first goal of the season with a beautiful shot that picked the top short-side corner. In doing so he helped 17-year-old Gannon Laroque and the Royals’ 2019 1st round pick Jason Spizawka, get their first-ever WHL points.
We would soon see a highlight-reel goal for all the wrong reasons.
At the end of a long shift, 16-year-old Koehn Ziemmer, absolutely undressed Noah Lamb, passed it through Luke Shipley’s legs to the fourth year Cougar Ethan Browne, for what could have been an easy tap in. However, the wrong reasons don’t end there. Browne got nothing on the shot, Evanoff overplayed it and it trickled in past the Royals’ netminders outstretched leg. Definitely, one he would want back.
The Penticton, BC native quickly shook it off, however, making two highlight-reel saves of his own back-to-back in tight. It was an impressive display of mental toughness to shake off that previous goal.
Nearing the end of the period Keanu Derungs would not be outdone by the Cougars’ display of skill. He pulled off a beautiful move of his own to set up Nick Dorrington. Unfortunately, Prince George’s keeper Tyler Brennan slid over to make a clutch stop.
After an ill-timed delay of game penalty by Luke Shipley, the Cougars pulled away to take a 5-3 lead on Connor Bowie’s third goal of the game. Shortly thereafter, Cage Newans and Gannon Laroque had seen enough of the crease crashing efforts from the Cougars. They mixed it up after the whistle to let them know it wasn’t going unnoticed. A much-needed push back in a game that was starting to slip away. By the conclusion of the second period, the shots were 32-17 for the Cougars.
Despite the Royals’ efforts to close the gap on the Cougars, Brennan kept the puck out of the net in a hard-fought third period. Victoria doubled up Prince George 14-7 in shots in the final 20 minutes but was unable to get a puck past Brennan.
The final score remained the same as it was at the end of the second period, 5-3.
Clearly, this game was won by both goalkeeper Tyler Brennan, and Connor Bowie. But I can’t help but wonder if this game wasn’t as much won by Prince George as it was lost by the Royals. Some discipline issues lead to two power-play goals against. If Evanoff had better rebound control, and the defense was able to clear the puck away when needed, this outcome could have been way different.
All in all the effort level was much better tonight than it was Friday. This is the youngest team in the league this year, and there will be growing pains. The process is obviously in the early stages, however, I see a lot to like with this team. Some great young pieces that are learning valuable lessons right now.
Let’s see how they respond with the first back-to-back of the season when they face their rival, the Vancouver Giants, tomorrow night. Puck drop at 7 pm Pacific.