On Grey Cup eve, the Western Hockey League game Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre appeared as if it was headed to that grey area known as overtime or shootout.
But winning goals can come from the most unlikely of sources.
Defenceman Brett Cote, more at home taking care of matters in his own end, scored unassisted from the point at 17:04 of the third period to give the Victoria Royals (13-12) a theatrical 3-2 victory over the Prince George Cougars (9-12-4) before 4,803 fans.
Or maybe its not that unlikely. Of Cotes three goals on the season, two have been game-winners, with Saturday nights following his overtime goal from Oct. 3 at the Memorial Centre against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Im getting the puck on my stick and its going in, said the soft-spoken native of Oakbank, Man.
I have more confidence this year jumping into the play. Im trying to pitch in wherever I can.
The Cougars franchise, which skated in the old Memorial Arena as the Victoria Cougars from 1971 to 1993, returned to Blanshard Street to split the two-game set after Friday nights 5-4 victory over the Royals.
We pushed back, said Royals head coach Dave Lowry.
It [Saturdays contest] was a one-shot game in the third period, and we got that one shot. We got a lot of traffic in front of the net and we got the puck on net. Thats the way this team has to score.
An eventful first period included a penalty shot by Victorias Ben Walker stopped by Cougars netminder Brett Zarowny. That was followed by a double minor assessed to Royals forward Steven Hodges for a hit from behind. Defenceman Raymond Grewal made Victoria pay for that indiscretion with his first career WHL goal at 6:20 of the first.
Walker, however, made up for his earlier penalty shot by scoring twice at 10:30 and 13:05 of the first to give Victoria a 2-1 advantage.
The Minnesota native, however, wasnt sure he should be given the second goal, saying it should be credited to Alex Gogolev. Regardless, Walker was flitting around like a water-bug with Lowry calling him the best player on the ice.
It was a bummer to miss the breakaway, and ensuing penalty shot, but I kept working hard and got lucky later, Walker said.
We knew we had to get pucks on net and forecheck, and we did.
After pulling goaltender Patrik Polivka in Fridays game, Lowry went right back with the Czech import, who rewarded his coach with a nervy 31-save performance. Zarowny was also excellent in stopping 25 shots at the other end.
Patrik is a good goalie. Everyone has off nights [like Fridays] but Patrik can bounce back, said Walker.
Jarrett Fontaine pulled Prince George level at 8:28 of the second period. Then enter Cote for the heroics.
Brett [Cote] is so laid-back and composed that he is able to come through with some real good plays, said Walker.
And at the most opportune times.
ICE CHIPS: Forward Tyler Soy, Victorias first pick in the 2012 Bantam draft, made his Royals regular-season debut Saturday night. Soy is limited to five WHL games in his 15-year-old season . . . Royals captain Tyler Stahl, one of the Royals three overage 20-year-olds, sat out the second game of a two-game suspension Saturday for a check from behind in last Tuesdays win over Saskatoon. He will return for Tuesday nights game against 2012 NHL draft fifth overall pick Morgan Rielly and the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Memorial Centre Injured Victoria forward Tim Traber missed his sixth consecutive game Royals forward Austin Carroll, who Lowry said is away for personal reasons, missed his second straight game.
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