Prince George Cougars send Victoria Royals reeling to fifth consecutive loss

The Nightmare in the Interior continues for the Victoria Royals. The Prince George Cougars (4-3-2) defeated the Royals 5-2 in Kelowna to send the Royals (1-8-1) spiraling to their fifth consecutive Western Hockey League loss.

“The energy and attitude is still positive,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price. “Everyone knows and understands we are improving every day.”

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Prince George controlled the face-off circle 39-16 and when you do that you control the game.

“The Cougars got a lot of puck possession off the draws. We will work on that. We had a couple of young centres out there and we will help them with that,” said Price. Anaheim Ducks first-round draft-pick Brayden Tracey, who had a seven-game points streak of five goals and six assists snapped in Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Giants, opened scoring for Victoria on the power play at 11:32 of the first period. The Royals’ reverie was not long lived, however, as the Cougars went ahead in the second period on the first goals of the season for Majid Kaddoura and Keaton Dowhaniuk.

Trentyn Crane pulled Victoria level with his first career WHL goal at 11:40 of the middle period before Johnny Hooker’s fourth goal of the season put Prince George ahead again at 18:08. Goals in the final minute of the third period by Kyren Gronick and Tyson Upper sealed the deal.

Taylor Gauthier, the third goaltender for silver-medallist Canada in the 2021 world junior championship, made 19 saves for Prince George. Rookie Connor Martin blocked 36 shots for Victoria. Royals goaltender Adam Evanoff leads the B.C. Division with 214 saves with Martin second with 171 saves, which is indicative of the avalanche of rubber both have faced this season.

The Royals, the youngest team in the WHL with 12 rookies, were again without injured veterans Noah Lamb and import forward Keanu Derungs, who represented Switzerland in the 2021 world junior championship. Veteran forward Riley Gannon is back home in Nanaimo after being side-lined with a season-ending injury. “Our line-up is quite thin,” said Price.

Victoria meets the Kelowna Rockets on Monday.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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