History repeated itself Friday night for the Prince George Cougars in overtime and once again the story did not have a happy ending for the Cats.
The Victoria Royals did the damage to the Cougars in the extra session, just like they did in their only other win this season, and Brayden Schuurman put the finishing touches on a 2-1 victory when he scored the winner on Cougars’ rookie goalie Ty Young three minutes into OT at Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
That ended a 10-game losing streak for Victoria. The only other win In 16 games this year for the Royals (2-13-1-0) came on April 6 in Kamloops when they beat the Cougars 3-2 in overtime.
Brandon Cutler has the other Victoria goal. Tyson Upper scored for the Cougars (6-7-2-1), who came into Friday’s game having won both of their previous games this week.
Adam Evanoff made 40 saves in goal for Victoria and was the obvious choice as first star of the game. The Cougars outshot Victoria 41-23.
After a slow start, the Cougars came to life in the second and third periods but they couldn’t finish their chances and didn’t score until they were eight minutes into the third period. Upper collected his second goal in two games when he got his stick on a bouncing puck just outside the Royals crease. Connor Bowie intercepted a Matthew Smith clearing attempt and Craig Armstrong centred the puck from the left side. It caromed off the skate of Victoria forward Luke Shipley to Upper and he filed it away for his third goal and seventh point in 16 games this season.
The Cats kept the pedal down and dominated the play the rest of the period while outshooting the Royals 15-3 in the final period. But goalie Adam Evanoff was good when he had to be to give his team a chance in overtime.
On the game-ending play, Brayden Tracey stripped the puck from Riley Heidt at the far blueline and carried it into the Cougars zone, firing off a pass to an unguarded Schuurman, who went to the glove side on Young for his fifth of the season.
“I thought in the second and third period of the game we had lots of positive things to say but our first period left lots to be desired for sure, we didn’t start the game the way we wanted,” said Cougars associate coach Jason Smith. “We ended up behind and you’re playing a team that’s really hungry for a win and they made it really hard on us to start the game and we didn’t come out prepared to play the game at the level we need to.
”In the second and third we created lots of offensive chances and we could have had some more traffic around the net to capitalize on those second and third chances and we didn’t.”
Young drew his second career WHL start. The 16-year-old native of Coaldale, Alta., chosen by the Cats in the eighth round of the 2019 WHL draft, took the game’s first penalty when he played the puck outside of the trapezoid behind the goal line and he seemed to gain confidence after being forced to make his first few saves.
“He certainly gave us an opportunity to win the game with the saves he made in the first when we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be,” said Smith. “He hung in there and started the game off with a penalty kill right away and he did what you need from your goalie and to give you an opportunity in the end.”
The Cougars had the early edge in shots but couldn’t beat Evanoff and the Royals put together a surge late in the opening period and grabbed the lead with a power-play goal just before the intermission. Upper was in the penalty box for hooking when Taren Fizer let go a point shot that was deflected into Young’s pads by Keanu Derungs. The rebound popped out for Cutler and he went wide across the crease to find the open cage and score his sixth of the season at the 17:48 mark.
The Royals had the Cougars pinned in their zone in the early going of the second period and came close to adding to their lead. Cutler hit the crossbar behind Young and the Royals kept their feet moving to win the puck battles, forcing Young to stand his ground to keep it a one-goal game.
Despite spending a good chunk of the second period on the penalty kill with four minors to kill, while the Royals drew two, the Cougars took ownership of the puck and outshot the Royals 12-6 but had nothing to show for it. Evanoff, a 20 year old in his fourth WHL season, was the reason for that. Looking for his first win of the season, the former Moose Jaw Warrior made two stellar saves to deny Bowie late in the period, and also kept Armstrong off the scoresheet with his blocker on a dangerous drive to the net from the Cougars leading scorer.
The Cougars face the Vancouver Giants Sunday in Kamloops (6 p.m., 94.3 FM, The Goat).
LOOSE PUCKS: In his WHL debut April 17 in Kamloops, Young allowed six goals in a 7-5 loss to the Kelowna Rockets… The Rockets scored five goals on 18 shots in the first period Friday in Kelowna and went on to defeat the first-place Blazers 5-1. The Rockets improved to 8-2 and have a 7-1 record since they returned from a 14-day quarantine in mid-April after several players and team staff tested positive for COVID… The Cougars were without three forwards to start the game. RW Kyren Gronick and C Brendan Boyle are both out with injuries. LW Jonny Hooker was serving a suspension for a hit on Connor Zary in the third period of Wednesday’s 6-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers which injured the Blazers forward. Hooker was assessed a two-minute charging penalty but the league reviewed the play later and handed out the suspension, the length of which is still to be determined… Cougars goalie Tyler Brennan is in Texas with Canada’s national team at the IIHF Under18 World Championship. Canada improved to 3-0 at the 10-team tournament after a 7-0 win Friday over Switzerland. The Canadians face Belarus, 6-2 winners Friday over Latvia, in a game Saturday in Plano, Texas (6 p.m. PT start, TSN). The 17-year-old Brennan is still awaiting his first game action.