By Dan O’Connor
Prince George Cougars
The Prince George Cougars can hold their heads high. They gave the Victoria Royals all that they could handle, and then some. But their first playoff series in four years came to an end Saturday night in Victoria in dramatic fashion. The plucky Cougars erased a 3-1 and a 4-3 deficit, and tied the game with 1:14 left to force overtime. But Brandon Magee ended the series 1:42 into the extra frame to lift Victoria into the second round. Zach Pochiro recorded his first WHL hat-trick for the Cougars, while Greg Chase responded with a hat-trick of his own for Victoria. It was a memorable series, and one that will no doubt help the Prince George Cougars in the long run.
Victoria led 3-1 after the first period. Greg Chase opened the scoring at 9:04 of the first on a power play, but Zach Pochiro was quick to counter with his second of the series to tie the game 1-1. Brandon Fushimi restored Victoria’s lead on a wrap-around (unassisted) at 13:41 of the first, and Greg Chase doubled the lead at 17:04 to give the Royals a 3-1 lead after the fist period.
Credit the Cougars who came back in the second with a persistent attack. They outshot the Royals 15-8, and had it not been for some timely stops for Victoria’s Coleman Vollrath, the end result could have been worse. Zach Pochiro notched his second of the game for the Cougars at 15:14 on the power play to move the Cougars back within a goal, and the Cougars went into the third with momentum on their side.
It was more of the same in the third, the Cougars doubled the Royals in shots 14-7, and would eventually be rewarded for their efforts when (guess who?) Zach Pochiro skated across the Royals blueline, and wired a shot past Coleman Vollrath and in for his third of the night, his fourth of the series and his first ever WHL hat-trick to tie the game at three.
Greg Chase restored Victoria’s lead a minute and 16 seconds later off a three-on-two rush, but the Cougars were not ready to call it a day.
With under two minutes remaining in the game, Brandon Magee took a delay of game penalty, which provided the Cougars with one last-ditch power play opportunity, and guess what! They delivered. Right off a face off, Jansen Harkins won the draw to his left right to the stick of Brad Morrison. Morrison wasted no time and blasted a shot past the glove of Coleman Vollrath to tie the game at four. Overtime was needed.
A minute and 48 seconds into the final period, Brandon Magee clinched the series when he took an Alex Forsberg pass and deflected it past Ty Edmonds and in for his sixth of the series and the series clincher.
The Cougars outshot the Royals in four of the five games of the series, and finished the series 8-27 on the power play and only surrendered three power play goals against in the entire series.
A tough loss for a young and resilient team who didn’t quit, no matter the circumstance. But no doubt the experience from the 2014-15 playoffs will help further shape and mold this organization as it moves forward.
The Prince George Cougars wish the Victoria Royals the very best in their second round series with the Kelowna Rockets. It was a heck of a series, and no doubt there are several learning lessons to be had for this young group of Cougars who will only benefit from this experience, no matter how difficult it may seem today.