By Jason LaRose of Hockey Canada
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C.: Hunter Floris got the scoring started with the first two goals, and the Cariboo Cougars hung on for a wild 4-3 win over the Cape Breton West Islanders on Wednesday night at the 2017 TELUS Cup.
The victory is the first for the tournament hosts, and creates a log jam in the standings; three teams – Cape Breton West, Mississauga and Leduc – are 2-1, with the Cougars just a point back at 1-1-1, and Séminaire Saint-François (1-2) another point behind.
Cariboo leaned heavily on its penalty kill to break into the win column; the Cougars held Cape Breton West to a single power-play goal on 13 chances. The teams combined for 20 opportunities with the man advantage.
The parade to the penalty box started early, with four minors in the opening 10 minutes. But Floris struck first during a rare stretch of five-on-five play, banging in a rebound at 14:38 after Islanders goaltender Colten Ellis couldn’t corral a shot from Darian Long.
He doubled the lead just shy of the 13-minute mark of the second period with one of the goals of the tournament, splitting the Cape Breton West defence before chipping a backhand past Ellis, and Daine Dubois poked in a loose puck off a scramble in the crease to push the advantage to 3-0 at 18:12.
The Atlantic champions got one back before the end of the middle frame on a five-on-three; Avery Warner set up Keenan Gillis for a one-timer in the slot, and he beat Cariboo netminder Marcus Allen to make it 3-1 after two periods.
That set up a wild third that included five penalties, 15 shots and three goals.
Sean Stewart made it a one-goal game at 9:06, beating Allen with a blast from the point, and a Cariboo penalty just 26 seconds later looked to keep the momentum on the Cape Breton West side.
But Riley Krane knocked down a pass in the neutral zone and sprung Long, who slipped a backhand five-hole on Ellis on a shorthanded breakaway to restore the two-goal lead with 8:18 to go.
Logan Chisholm cut the lead to 4-3 with a pretty goal, dangling around Cariboo defender and beating Allen to the far side with just under two minutes left, but that would be as close as the Maritimers would get.
One last power play with 20 seconds remaining gave Cape Breton West hope, but Allen kept the puck out with the Islanders swarming in the final seconds, sealing the victory.
Cariboo will go for consecutive wins against the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François on Thursday night (11:30 p.m. AST), right after Cape Breton West faces the Mississauga Rebels (8 p.m. AST).