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Schoettler nabs OT winner for Cougars

It’s now a streak. Ryan Schoettler’s goal with 56 seconds left in overtime, lifted the Prince George Cougars to a 2-1 win over the Victoria Royals, Friday at the CN Centre.

Schoettler scored on a Josh Curtis rebound off the pad of Royals goaltender Griffen Outhouse with just 56-seconds left in overtime, as the Cougars have now won three-straight for the first time since November 18th.

Friday was the Royals fourth-straight loss but the overtime point clinched them a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Joel Lakusta scored in regulation for the Cougars, as his power-play goal five-minutes into the third period, broke a scoreless deadlock. Taylor Gauthier was named the game’s first start, as the 16-year-old stopped 32 of 33 shots fired his way.

Noah Gregor scored the Royals only goal, also on the power-play, three-minutes after Lakusta’s goal. Griffen Outhouse came out on the losing end, kicking-out 36 of 38 shots.

It was a goaltender’s duel right through to the end of regulation, as Gauthier and Outhouse combined for 68 saves on 71 shots. Gauthier stopped nine shots in the first, 12 in the second, nine in the third an two more in overtime, picking up his eighth win of the season.

The game was also dominated by special teams, as the Cougars had nine power-plays; the two teams were a combined 2-13 with the man-advantage.

Schoettler probably had the Cougars best chance to score in the first period, but his point-shot just sailed past Outhouse’s glove and the post.

Matt Phillips had the best Royals chance in the opening frame, as he almost dangled right in but Gauthier flared out his pad to stop Phillips’ backhand attempt in tight.

In the second, Jackson Leppard also had a chance to break the scoreless tie, but he was denied by Outhouse on a two-on-one rush. Leppard decided to shoot on the odd-man break but his wrist-shot was just fought-off by the goalie’s shoulder.

In the third period, the deadlock was  finally broken, as it took until the Cougars eighth power-play to get on the scoresheet. Leppard left the puck along the wall for Brogan O’Brien, who dropped it back to Lakusta, and his point-shot snuck through through traffic and underneath the goalie’s pads; that goal coming right at the five-minute mark. However, three minutes later the game was all square again.

On the Royals power-play, Tyler Soy, Matt Phillips and Noah Gregor quickly worked the puck down-low, with Gregor finishing off the play by tapping in a cross-crease pass from Phillips at 8:07.

There was controversy late, as the Royals had a go-ahead goal waved-off with just over two-minutes left. Royals forward Lane Zablocki broke down the left-wing and drove the net, but he lost his footing and slid into Gauthier at the top of the crease. The puck did slide in but the referee ruled incidental contact

There was more drama after that, as Noah Gregor was then assessed a four-minute penalty for slew-footing. The home team was given a  four-minute power-play to work with, inside the final half-minute.

Prince George was unable to capitalize on that lengthy power-play that carried into overtime, but they in the end, it didn’t matter.

It was a rare four-on-four sequence in overtime, created after the Gregor penalty ended. He came out of the box and tried to jam the puck in at the post but Gauthier rebuffed him, and then Zablocki with an excellent split save. The Cougars picked up the puck and rushed back with numbers the other way, which ended with Schoettler cashing in on the juicy rebound off of Outhouse’s pad.

FINAL SCORE: 2-1 (OT) Cougars

Shots: 38-33 Cougars

Power-Plays: Cougars 1-10 Royals 1-6

Three Stars: 1) Taylor Gauthier 2) Griffen Outhouse 3) Ryan Schoettler.

Schoettler’s overtime goal was his seventh this season and eighth of his career; four of which have now come against the Royals.  Prince George improved their overtime record to 3-4 and the Royals dropped to 7-4. The Cougars are now 3-1-1-0 in five games against the Royals this season.

Prince George (22-33-4-4) looks for a fourth-straight win Saturday, in the back half of a weekend doubleheader against the Royals (35-24-4-2); puck drop is 7 pm. It’s the WHL’ Suits Up with Don Cherry Night, presented by RE/MAX, in support of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. The Cougars are wearing Don Cherry-themed specialty jerseys and fans will have the chance to win a Don Cherry Bobblehead.

-PG Cougars


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