The Prince George Cougars were less than three-minutes away from a comeback win but, in the end, settled for a point in a hard-fought 4-3 overtime loss to the Victoria Royals, Friday night.
Tanner Kaspick was the OT-hero, scoring his second goal of the game, two and a half minutes into the three-on-three session. Dante Hannoun and Tyler Soy also scored for the Royals, who almost squandered away a 2-0 second period lead. Dean McNabb started but was relieved by Griffen Outhouse in the third period, after yielding three goals on 33 shots; Outhouse stopped all five shots he faced.
Reid Perepeluk got the comeback started late in the second, scoring his first WHL goal with less than half a minute left in the frame. That momentum carried over to the third, as the Cougars scored twice to take a 3-2 lead, after they got goals from Rhett Rhinehart and Josh Maser. Tavin Grant earned second star honours, kicking-out 39 of 43 shots fired his way.
Going into the game, the two teams had split the previous six meetings this season and the see-saw season series continued Friday.
Victoria opened the scoring midway through the first period, as Dante Hannoun smacked in the puck at the side of the net at 10:55. Matthew Phillips had his pass or shot from the right-wing, bounce right to Hannoun, who punched in the knuckling puck on the blocker-side.
Prince George fired 11 shots at the Victoria net in the first period but headed to the dressing room down 1-0.
The Royals added to their lead just before the five-minute mark in the middle frame. Tann Kaspick cut in off the wall and made a b-line to the Cougars’ net, before dragging the puck back out front and stuffing it between Grant’s legs at 4:55.
Down 2-0, the Cougars pressed and finally were rewarded inside the final minute of the second period and it was an unlikely source getting them on the scoresheet. Reid Perepeluk grabbed the puck just below the goal-line, and from the blocker-side, about 10 feet off from the net, he fired a shot that snuck between the goalie’s pad and the post at 19:30. Perepeluk picking up his first WHL goal, a game after collecting his first WHL point.
Perepeluk’s goal seemed to be the boost the Cougars needed, as it was another rookie putting them back on even terms. Just as a four-on-four sequence was coming to an end, Rhett Rhinehart scooped up the puck, moved to the slot, and fired a wrist-shot off the post and past McNabb at 3:58; Rhinehart scoring his first goal since February 20th.
Prince George continued to ride the momentum and grabbed their first lead of the night three-minutes later. After some great work down-low by Aaron Boyd and Josh Curtis, it was Maser ripping a one-timer past McNabb at 7:19 to make it 3-2. Boyd made a great pass from behind the net out front to Maser who quickly scored his team-best 28th goal.
Victoria pressed late and were handed a power-play with just five-minutes left and they capitalized. Just as the Cougars were back to full strength, it was Tyler Soy at the side of the net banging in a cross-ice pass from Matthew Phillips at 17:03; Soy tying it 3-3 three-seconds after the power-play had elapsed.
In OT, with the two teams skating three-on-three, it was Kaspick taking over, charging down the right-wing, using his size to create space as he cut to the net and he finished to rush by sliding the puck five-hole on Grant at 2:39.
FINAL SCORE: 4-3 Royals
Shots: 43-38 Royals
Power-Plays: Cougars 0-1 Royals 0-3
Three Stars: 1) Tanner Kaspick 2) Tavin Grant 3) Tyler Soy
Prince George (23-36-5-4) drop to 3-5 in overtime and are now 3-2-2-0 in six games against the Royals. Victoria improved their overtime record to 8-4 and are now 4-2-1-0 against the Cougars this season. Friday was the third game out of seven between the two rivals that needed overtime. Josh Maser has now scored six goals in seven games against the Royals; he has eight points in those seven games.
The Cougars conclude their eight-game season series with the Royals on Sunday afternoon; face-off is 2:05 pm. Fans can listen to the game on 94.3 The GOAT, or they can watch online via WHL Live.