Friday night at the CN Centre the Prince George Cougars dropped a 2-1 decision at the hands of the Victoria Royals. Regan Nagy paced the Royals offence with a goal and an assist while Kody McDonald had the Cougars lone tally which game early in the third with his team down 2-0. Newly acquired forward Nikita Popugaev recorded an assist in his Cougars debut. Ty Edmonds and Griffen Outhouse were both excellent in goal again for their respective teams. Edmonds ended with 36 saves while Outhouse turned aside 25 Cougars shots fired his way. It marked the fifth straight victory for the Royals and their fourth straight win against the Cougars dating back to December 3rd.
The opening goal came on a power play at the 7:32 mark of the first period when Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Vladimir Bobylev crashed the net and tucked home a Ralph Jarratt rebound past a sprawled Ty Edmonds. The Royals power play finished the night one-for-three while the Cougars would go zero-for-two on their chances. Victoria ended up outshooting the Cougars 19-8 in the first but Ty Edmonds did his part keeping the Cougars within striking distance thanks to a plethora of timely saves, a handful of which came off of Victoria breakaways.
Early in the second the Cougars nearly tied the game but Brogan O’Brien and Colby McAuley hit posts in succession off the rush. Those posts would prove vital for the Royals who would then increase their lead to 2-0 at the 12:48 mark off a lucky bounce. Jack Walker’s shot from the right point went well wide of the Cougars net, but the shot bounced right off the back boards to Regan Nagy at the side of the Cougars net who knocked the puck out of mid-air and past the stick of Edmonds for his 12th of the season.
After two periods the game was 2-0 Victoria with the shots at 30-13 in favor of the visitors who defended their zone especially well through the first 40 minutes by blocking shots and not allowing the Cougars many clear looks at their net.
58 seconds into the third period though the Cougars caught a break when Kody McDonald scooped up a pass from Nikita Popugaev in the left circle, spun around to his forehand and ripped his ninth of the season past the glove of Griffen Outhouse to put the Cougars on the board.
That’s as close as the Cougars would get though as Outhouse turned aside the next 12 shots fired his way in the third period. Brendan Guhle hit a post in the final minute off a shot from the point but ultimately it wasn’t enough and the Cougars dropped a 2-1 decision.
Victoria outshot the Cougar 38-26.
With the loss the Cougars record now sits at 27-11-2-0 while the Royals improved to 22-15-4-0. The Cougars loss coupled with the Kamloops Blazers win now means the Cougars hold a four point lead for first place in the B.C. Division with two games still in hand on the second placed Blazers. Kelowna sits seven points back of the Cougars while the Royals are now back within eight. The Cougars and Royals will meet for an eighth and final time during the regular season on Saturday at the CN Centre.