VICTORIA 2, PRINCE GEORGE 1
Patrik Polivka was just a newborn in the Czech Republic in 1994 when the Victoria Cougars moved to Prince George. Alex Gogolev, meanwhile, was only two years old in Russia.
On a Saturday night 18 years later, fate had the two European imports playing pivotal roles in this protracted hockey tale of two B.C. cities.
Goaltender Polivka made 38 saves in regulation and overtime and four in the shootout, and forward Gogolev scored in regulation time and the shootout, to give the Victoria Royals a 2-1 WHL victory over the host Cougars in Prince George.
“Patrik gives us a chance to win every night and he did everything we expected of him,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry.
“Alex was very good and capitalized on his chances.”
Polivka’s shutout bid went deep into the third period before defenceman Dallas Ehrhardt finally scored for Prince George with 1:34 remaining in regulation time.
Gogolev, the Royals’ quick and crafty leading scorer, had given Victoria the lead at 5:41 of the second period and then ended it in the fourth round of the shootout as the Royals snapped a two-game losing streak to move to 28-19-4.
It’s almost uncanny that the Royals found themselves in Prince George on the eve of a Super Bowl featuring the Baltimore Ravens.
In terms of franchises, the Royals are to the WHL what the Ravens are to the NFL. Having lost a WHL team — the Cougars to Prince George — Victoria eventually got the Chilliwack Bruins and renamed them the Royals in part because of the Queen Victoria namesake connection. Having lost their beloved NFL Colts to Indianapolis, Baltimore got the Cleveland Browns and were inspired to rename them the Ravens in honour of writer and native son Edgar Allan Poe.
(While Cleveland then got another NFL team and gave it the traditional Browns name, alas there has been no return of the WHL to Chilliwack).
The Prince George Cougars are the Indianapolis Colts of the WHL in terms of franchise moves and keeping the other city’s traditional team nickname. But that’s where the similarities end because the Cougars haven’t experienced anything near the success in junior hockey as the Colts in pro football.
The Cougars franchise —whether based in Victoria or Prince George — has been a study in frustration. The Cougars have missed the playoffs five of the last nine seasons and this year may be no different, as the Cats are 16-30-7.
Prince George went to 2-3-1 since Mark Holick took over as head coach from the fired Dean Clark.
The Cougars have not made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2000 when Y2K was a concern. Before that, this is a franchise that missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons — the last five in Victoria from 1989-90 to 1993-94 and first two that followed in Prince George.
But that’s not Victoria’s problem any more than the Colts are Baltimore’s.
The Royals return to Blanshard to host the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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