Despite the third consecutive loss, this was the best game of the 2020-21 B.C. Division hub season in terms of effort for the Prince George Cougars.
That’s from General Manager and Head Coach Mark Lamb to the media about his team’s play Tuesday night (April 6), who stepped up offensively in comparison to its first four contests.
Prince George fell 3-2 in overtime to Victoria, the Royals’ first win of the shortened campaign, and had to rally a comeback from down 0-2 at one point.
Lamb called his players ‘sluggish’ after the 1-0 shootout setback against Vancouver as the Cougars were badly outshot 43-14.
He explained the two days provided critical moments to get them back to an acceptable level of hockey.
“We did some things with the team, you know, gave them some rest and that’s very important,” said Lamb when asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters regarding the difference between the two tilts.
“You learn things about your team as you go here, and that’s one thing we learnt. When they can come out, they have some life and they’ve got some legs, we can play a really strong game. We did some things in practice, we’ve implemented a few things and we’ve seen it time after time.”
The first period went scoreless, but Cats’ goaltender Tyler Brennan extended his shutout streak to nearly 108 minutes by stopping eight and adding to a 65-save record at the intermission buzzer.
It ultimately ended for the 17-year-old at 112:53 between goals as the Royals' opened the scoring 5:01 into the second stanza while on a power-play. That time dates back to March 29, also against Victoria, at 2:52 of the second period.
.@tyler_brennan70's shut-out streak ends at 112:53 as the @PGCougars are down 1-0 to Victoria following a PP goal 5:01 into the 2nd period ⏱ That's 67 straight saves & a valiant effort from the soon-to-be 🇨🇦 goaltender at the 2021 U18 World Championships | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/YtkbIh9r2J— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) April 7, 2021
After the guest-Royals made it a two-goal lead later in the period, Jonny Hooker notched his first goal of the 2020-21 campaign to get Prince George back in the contest.
The 19-year-old Winnipeg, Man., product potted the puck behind Victoria netminder Connor Martin off a rebound after rookie Koehn Ziemmer tried to cut in on the right side of the offensive zone.
Ethan Browne was credited with the second assist, and the score remains 2-1 for the Royals through 40 minutes.
The Cougars then tied it up 74 seconds into the final frame, courtesy of Hooker for his second of the night which also included an assist from Browne.
“He’s totally lived up to his expectations,” said Coach Lamb when PrinceGeorgeMatters asked about what Hooker has brought to the organization since acquiring him from the Brandon Wheat Kings at the 2019-20 trade deadline.
“He’s a real leader, he’s a real positive person and he’s a really good hockey player. He doesn’t surprise me; it’s his first couple of goals but he’s had some chances and I really liked that line tonight. I thought that was their best effort by far even though it was only their second game [together]. It was a solid team effort.”
The score remained 2-2 until the end of regulation and a shootout was within reach, but Brayden Tracey completed a three-point night by scoring the 3-2 overtime winner with 24 seconds left.
Hooker was pleased with his teammates’ hard work by creating much-needed turnovers to offer those scoring chances, especially his second line with Ziemmer and Browne.
“I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can,” the alternate captain explained, who was awarded the second star of the game.
“The biggest thing is just my teammates and the respect for me, they have, and the respect I have for them. I think we’re a really good group and I think you’re just going to see us just getting closer and better as the year goes on.”
The Cougars are now 1-2-1-1 for the 2020-21 season thus far.
They went scoreless on three power-play opportunities, killed off one of two penalties and outshot the Royals 45-30.
Prince George has three days off until their next contest set for Saturday (April 10), 7 p.m. against Vancouver as the designated away team.
This was originally scheduled for Thursday (April 8), but was moved to the weekend as the Kelowna Rockets are continuing a 14-day COVID-19 suspension after seven members, four players and three staff, recently tested positive for the virus.
As a result, the Cougars' contest on Sunday (April 11), also against the Giants, has been bumped to Monday (April 12).
The WHL said is likely to be the final scheduling change for the B.C. Division season barring any setbacks or further developments in the coming days.