The Prince George Cougars made the most of their opportunities early, then scored an empty net goals to ice a 5-3 win over the Royals in Western Hockey League action Wednesday in Victoria.
The Royals outshot the Cougars 39-27 but could not beat goaltender Tavin Grant after the first period, chalking up 36 saves in total.
The teams play the rematch tonight (Dec. 28, 7:05 p.m. start) at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
The loss continued the rough patch for the Royals (20-14-3-0), who have now dropped four straight, a string that ironically began in Prince George. Kelowna’s 2-1 shootout win over Kamloops last night gave the Rockets (21-11-2-1) sole possession of first in the B.C. Division, two points ahead of the Royals, who have held the position all season.
Joel Lakusta scored twice for the Cougars (13-17-3-2), including the empty netter, and Kody McDonald had three assists to lead Prince George over Victoria.
The Royals’ only lead of the game came when Matthew Phillips’ 25th goal of the season, scored on the power play, made it 3-2 at the 12:03 mark of the first period. The Cougars’ Jackson Leppard tied it up on the power play less than two minutes later.
Josh Maser tallied the eventual winner with a man advantage goal early in the second.
Victoria’s other goals came from Noah Gregor (16th) and Tyler Soy (14th), while Dante Hannoun had two assists. Griffen Outhouse made 22 saves in the loss.