The Victoria Royals’ franchise-record seven-game winning streak ended Tuesday night in dramatic fashion at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
The Prince Albert Raiders stunned the Royals 6-5 in a Western Hockey League shootout before 4,445 fans.
Victoria’s rookie goaltender Coleman Vollrath — whose mask features an image of the statue of Queen Victoria facing the Inner Harbour — made the start ahead of Royals regular goaltender Patrik Polivka. Vollrath was victimized by a goal just before the end of of regulation time.
Forward Mark McNeill, 2011 first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, tied it 5-5 in a last-gasp Prince Albert effort with the puck going in with .07 of a second remaining in the third period.
“It was a stressful situation,” said Vollrath, who made his 13th appearance and dropped to 2-6.
“They scored right off the face-off [taken with 3.4 seconds remaining]. We needed to be sharper in our own end. But we have to brush it off and move on.”
Rookie Jack Walker connected on the power play at 15:06 of the third period to put Victoria ahead 5-4 as the Royals (27-17-4) looked to have it won against the Raiders (29-17-4), who snapped a two-game losing streak.
“We’ve got to be better at the end of the game,” said Walker, a native of Minnesota.
Walker said the Royals were focusing on McNeill, who represented Canada at the 2013 world junior championships in Russia, but the Raiders star still managed to squeeze to the crease to knock in the tying goal and beat the buzzer.
Leon Draisaitl scored the lone goal in the shootout to clinch it for Prince Albert.
The Royals got off to a quick start as Mitch Deacon scored on Victoria’s first shot on net just 22 seconds into the game.
Brandon Magee, with his ninth goal in his last four games, made it 2-0 at 9:37.
But unanswered goals from Carson Perreaux, Draisaitl and Davis Vandane, the latter short-handed, gave Prince Albert a 3-2 lead heading into the first break.
The second period opened in the early minutes with a heavyweight rumble between Tim Traber of Victoria and Harrison Ruopp.
Then two of Victoria’s most skilled players took control with team-leading scorer Alex Gogolev connecting at 9:36 and Florida Panthers prospect Steven Hodges short-handed at 12:36 as the second period ended with the Royals leading 4-3.
Shane Danyluk tied it 4-4 in the third period with Prince Albert’s second short-handed goal of the evening before the theatrics that ended the night.
Royals forward Ben Walker returned to the line-up after missing 11 games following an inadvertent hit by teammate Tyler Stahl in a game at Kelowna on Jan. 2.
Forwards Trent Lofthouse, Logan Nelson and Luke Harrison were scratched because of injury. Blueliner and captain Stahl sat out the second game of an eight-game suspension for a hit to the head penalty incurred Friday in a game against Vancouver.
The game heralded the return of former Royals forward Dakota Conroy, who is thriving since the trade early this season that sent him to Prince Albert. He has 18 goals and 43 points in 46 games this season for the Raiders despite being held point-less Tuesday.
Luke Siemens made 28 saves in goal for Prince Albert, making its first appearance on Blanshard Street in 18 years. Vollrath, a native of Calgary, made 30 saves for Victoria.
Despite losing their previous two games to Kamloops and Kelowna, the tenacious Raiders rebounded to show why they lead the East Division.
The Royals earned a point Tuesday and are now working on an eight-game unbeaten streak. They are in Kelowna to face the Rockets on Thursday.
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