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Aubin, Scott, Palmer lead Royals to key WHL win over Cougars

Victoria Royals Tanner Scott breaks out of his own end between Prince George Cougars JVictoria Royals Tanner Scott breaks out of his own end between Prince George Cougars Jonas Brandberg ,left, and Koehn Ziemmer in first period WHL action at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The Victoria Royals got three points from an unlikely source, Devin Aubin, in a critical 6-2 Western Hockey League victory over the Prince George Cougars on Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

The result moved ninth-place Victoria to within a point of Prince George and the idle Spokane Chiefs, who are tied for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Cougars have two games in hand on the Royals and the Chiefs one game. Eight teams will make the playoffs in the conference. Victoria has 10 games remaining, including tonight again against the Cougars on Blanshard Street.

The Royals led 4-2 after an eventful first period Friday. Victoria chased Cougars starter Ty Young from the net with three goals on seven shots and then touched replacement Tyler Brennan with another goal before the first buzzer mercifully sounded for the Cougars. The Royals shooters did well early with four goals by Tanner Scott, Riley Gannon, Carter Briltz and Devin Aubin’s first on just nine shots. That was especially so, considering Young and Brennan are both ranked for the 2022 NHL draft, with Brennan the top-rated North American goaltender. The Cougars hung tough in the first period with 18 shots on Tyler Palmer and a pair of power-play goals from Koehn Ziemmer and Connor Bowie. Palmer was outstanding on the night with 40 saves.

When it rains, it pours pucks. Rearguard Aubin, playing up, scored his second goal of the night and season at 9:16 of the second period. Victoria captain Tarun Fizer closed out the scoring in the third period with Aubin topping off his big night with an assist. The quicksilver Scott joined Aubin in having a three-point night.

The Royals received a huge boost with blueliner and San Jose Sharks fourth-round draft pick Gannon Laroque and leading- scorer Bailey Peach returning to the line-up from injury. Laroque, effective at both ends of the ice, had two assists, including a target-perfect pass to Gannon that sprung him for his breakaway goal in the first period.