The Spokane Chiefs certainly know how to spoil the party. On the night the Prince George Cougars raised their first BC Division championship banner at the CN Centre, it was the Chiefs doubling up the Cougars 4-2 Friday night.
17-year-old Chiefs’ defencemen Ty Smith had a goal and three points and his teammate Hudson Elynuik chipped in with two points, including the game-winning goal, as Spokane came out on top in the Cougars’ home opener.
Nikita Popugaev and Ethan O’Rourke scored for the Cougars in the second and third period but it wasn’t enough, as Spokane edge Prince George in the season opener. Dawson Weatherhill stopped 28 0f 30 to post the win in the Spokane net. Tavin Grant surrendered four goals on 31 shots and was tagged with the loss.
Before puck drop, the Cougars raised their 2016-2017 BC Division regular season championship banner to the rafters of the CN Centre in a touching pre-game ceremony. However, Spokane did their best to mute the celebration.
Seven and a half minutes into the first, Taylor Ross put the visitors on the scoresheet first, scoring on a breakaway after a great pass from Ty Smith. Ross took the pass at the Cougars’ blue-line and went upstairs on Grant to open the scoring.
Late in the period the Cougars went on the power-play looking to even things up but it was the Chiefs’ penalty-kill that found the back of the net. Elynuik poked the puck ahead to Riley Woods, who broke down the middle on a breakaway, before sliding a tidy backhand deke through Grant’s legs at 14:30.
Kody McDonald tried to give the Cougars a spark early in the second, as he dropped the gloves with Spokane’s Tyson Helgesen. Both hung in there, exchanging heavy shots before the linesman jumped in.
Spokane added to their lead nine-minutes into the second, as Elynuik scored a power-play goal to push the visitors lead to three. With just a second remaining on their first power-play, Elynuik took a cross-ice pass from Riley McKay and buried a one-timer on the short-side at 8:45.
Prince George broke the goose-egg late in the second after the Chiefs ran into penalty trouble. On a five-on-three power-play, Nikita Popugaev hammered a one-timer from the left-wing, blowing the puck over the shoulder of Weatherhill to make it 3-1 at 16:19.
The Cougars couldn’t garner much traction after that goal however, as the Chiefs restored their three-goal lead less than three-minutes later. After a short scramble in front of Cougars’ crease, the puck squirted out to Ty Smith, who fired a bullet up underneath the bar with just 58-seconds left in the middle frame.
PG pressed in the third, trying to cut into the three-goal deficit and got some momentum midway through period. Josh Curtis cut into the Chiefs’ end down the right-wing, before firing the puck back into the middle for Ethan O’Rourke. The original pass missed O’Rourke but it bounced right back to the Cougars’ forward, and he snapped the puck over the stick of Weatherhill at 8:53 to make it 4-2.
The Cougars had a chance, short-handed, to get within one, as Curtis fed Ryan Schoettler in front, who had jumped up on a two-on-one rush, but Schoettler couldn’t pull the trigger in close on Weatherhill.
Final Score: 4-2 Spokane
Shots: 31-30 Spokane
Power-Plays: Spokane 1-3 Prince George 1-6
Three Stars: 1) Ty Smith 2) Hudson Elynuik 3) Nikita Popugaev
The two teams go at it again tomorrow night at the CN Centre, as the Cats look for the weekend split puck drop is 7 pm. Fans can buy their tickets for Saturday’s game online at www.ticketsnorth.ca, or at the TicketsNorth box office, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
-Prince George Cougars