Royals fend off late Cougar attack

The Victoria Royals survived a sudden reversal of fortune Friday night before salvaging a 3-2 Western Hockey League shootout victory over the host Prince George Cougars before 2,048 fans at CN Centre.

Things seemed to be going well for the Royals, with a late 2-0 lead, that it might have been even OK to commit hockey sacrilege and whisper the ‘S’ word for shutout.

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But two goals, both with the goaltender pulled, tied it for Prince George in the final two minutes and seven seconds of the third period.

Tarun Fizer scored the shootout winner after overtime decided nothing.

Third-period goals by Kaid Oliver and captain Phillip Schultz had staked Victoria to a two-goal lead that looked to be good enough. That assumption proved wrong as Josh Maser at 17:53 and Conner Bowie at 19:11 tied it for the Cougars.

Taylor Gauthier, a free-agent invitee to Boston Bruins rookie/prospects camp and former Canada Under-18 goaltender, made 22 saves for Prince George.

Brock Gould made 20 saves for Victoria as the Royals won their second consecutive game to move to 8-7-1.

The Cougars didn’t have the Belarussion Boost, who is sort of Prince George’s relative answer to the Russian Rocket. Minsk-native Vladislav Mikhalchuk was not ready to go Friday after rejoining the Cougars following beginning the season in pro with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL and affiliate Torpedo Gorky of the VHL in Russia. The 20-year-old forward, who led the Cougars in scoring last season with 25 goals and 25 assists, is expected in the lineup tonight when Prince George hosts the Royals again at CN Centre.

The re-addition of the six-foot-two threat couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the Cougars, who are last in the B.C. Division and Western Conference at 4-12-2.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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