The Victoria Royals kept the Prince George fans waiting Saturday night at CN Place. But rookie Terik Parascak finally broke the deadlock at 6:21 of the third period to trigger the avalanche of fur in a 1-0 Cougars victory on Teddy Bear toss night.
It was the first loss as a five-game Western Hockey League road trip concluded for the Royals.
“If you had asked me before the trip that we would go 4-1, I would have probably been pretty pleased with it,” said Royals head coach James Patrick.
“But when you win the first four, you want to win [all] those games. It was a good experience for our group to be in those tense situations tonight in a packed building against the No. 1 team in the league and highly rated in Canada. With all that in mind, it was a good experience for our team.”
The Cougars are tops in the Western Hockey League and ranked No. 2 in the Canadian Hockey League top-10 poll behind the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The Royals scored two unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Cougars 5-3 in Friday night and were in position for the sweep Saturday before falling just short.
“We passed up a lot of shots. We earned lot of opportunities we didn’t take advantage of,” said Patrick.
Both goaltenders, 17-year-old rookies, were factors as Joshua Ravensbergen recorded a 16-save shutout for Prince George and Jayden Kraus made 32 saves to keep Victoria in the game.
The Royals (18-12-2) are six points behind the leading Cougars (22-8) in the Western Conference but Prince George holds two games in hand.
“Getting better every game is the goal. We want to keep playing well in important games,” said Patrick, an Olympian, double world junior championship medallist and former NHL defenceman.
The Cougars were without third-round Los Angeles Kings draft pick Koehn Ziemmer, out long term with an ankle injury, and import forward Viliam Kmec, who has left to play for Slovakia in the 2024 world junior championship beginning Boxing Day in Gothenburg, Sweden.
In the Victoria line-up for the third consecutive game was defenceman Keaton Verhoeff, taken by the Royals fourth overall in the 2023 WHL prospects draft. He is restricted to five WHL games as a 15-year-old and has two remaining on the season but wowed observers this week with a poise and confidence well beyond his years as he looks to eventually join Royals rookie forward Cole Reschny — taken third overall in the 2022 WHL prospects draft and ranked for the second round of the 2025 NHL draft – as the Royals faces of the future.
The Royals return home to play the Tri-City Americans on Friday and next Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.