The Prince George Cougars exacted a measure of revenge on the Kamloops Blazers Wednesday, picking up a hard-fought 5-4 win at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops. The Cougars returning the favour, as just over one month ago, in Prince George, it was the Blazers earning a weekend sweep.
It was rollercoaster affair, as the Cougars got out to a 3-0 lead after the first period and led 4-1 in the second, but the Blazers fought back and made it a one-goal game late.
Ethan O’Rourke scored twice in the first period and Cole Moberg, Brogan O’Brien and Kody McDonald all found the back of the net. McDonald scored short-handed late in the third period to restore the Cougars two-goal lead, but that goal also turned out to be the game-winner, after Kamloops scored with the goalie pulled.
Tavin Grant picked up his sixth win of the season, stopping 27 of 31 shots. 15-year-old call up Dylan Garand took the loss in net for Kamloops, turning aside 33 of 38 pucks fired his way.
O’Rourke put the visitors out ahead four-minutes into the game, capitalizing on a loose puck out front of the Blazers’ net. Moberg had his point-shot knocked down in front but O’Rourke scooped it up and fired a wrist-shot post and in past Garand’s blocker at 4:18. That goal was the first for O’Rourke since opening night, September 22nd, as he snapped a lengthy goal drought.
Moberg then turned into the triggerman, as he scored his first of the season and second of his young career, on a seeing-eye shot from the blue-line. Chance Adrian dished the puck back to Moberg and from the right-wing, he sailed a wrist-shot over Garand’s blocker at 7:56. Moberg’s first of the year and first since November 10th of last year.
O’Rourke was at it again with under five-minutes left in the period, as he once more found the puck near the front of the net. Vladislav Mikhalchuk had his shot blocked in the face-off circle but O’Rourke came across, and as he was turning, he fired a backhand that got through the pads of Garand at 15:19. After not scoring in 18-games, O’Rourke found the back of the net twice in an 11-minute span in the first.
Kamloops pushed back in the second and red-hot Jermaine Loewen got them on the scoreboard. Loewen and Garrett Pilon traded passes down the right-wing before Loewen reached out and tipped a Pilon pass through Grant’s legs at 6:13. It was Loewen’s team-leading ninth goal and extended his goal-scoring streak to five games.
Brogan O’Brien later levelled Loewen with a huge open ice hit just inside the Cougars’ zone, as Loewen took O’Brien’s shoulder right to the chest after cutting across the middle of the ice. O’Brien was making noise later in the second but for a much different reason.
Th Prince George native restored the Cougars’ three-goal lead halfway through the middle frame, and after a terrific pass by Jackson Leppard. Leppard came in the Kamloops zone down the left-wing, pulling up on the boards, before firing a pass cross-ice and on the tape of O’Brien, who quickly went upstairs on Garand at 12:24.
Down 4-2 late in the second, the Blazers did get a boost when Quinn Benjafield scored from the blue-line and right after a face-off. The Blazers won the draw in the left-circle and Benjafield circled back to the point, before his wrist-shot sailed in off the post on the glove side at 18:32.
Before the second came to an end, emotions came to a head, as Kody McDonald dropped the gloves with Brady Reagan with half a minute left. Both combatants had a firm grip on one another, before they quickly exchanged punches and wrestled to the ice.
Kamloops carried over some momentum from that late goal in the second, as they made it a one-goal game early in the third period on a power-play. Garret Pilon was stopped from the right-wing but the puck sat against Grant’s pad in the crease, until Nick Chyzowski fished it loose and quickly tucked it in at 4:20 to make it 4-3.
Prince George withstood the Kamloops pressure, as they tried to manufacture an equalizer and they got a great opportunity in the late stages of the third. With just under five-minutes left, Grant was called for Delay of Game and the Blazers went to work, looking for a tying goal. However, it was the league’s number one ranked penalty-kill coming up with a clutch goal.
McDonald pressured Pilon at the Cougars’ blue-line and the Blazers’ forward, maybe sensing the oncoming pressure, bobbled the puck and then fell as he tried to pivot, handing McDonald a short-handed chance. The 19-year-old skated by everyone in blue and managed to squeeze his backhand attempt through the arm of Garand, to make it 5-3 with three and a half minutes left.
Pilon did make amends late in the game and also made things very interesting. With Kamloops pulling their goalie for the extras-attacker. Pilon had the puck come back to him up top and from the left-wing his low slap shot, snuck through a crowd of bodies out front and past Grant with just 47-seconds left.
Prince George buckled down in the final seconds of the game and didn’t allow Kamloops to complete the third period comeback.
Final Score: 5-4 Cougars
Shots: 38-31 Cougars
Power-Plays: Cougars 0-5 Kamloops 1-5
Three Stars: 1) Ethan O’Rourke 2) Cole Moberg 3) Dylan Garand
Baring scoring changes, Cougars’ forward Chance Adrian picked up his first two WHL points, as he assisted on the first two goals. Aaron Boyd reached a milestone Wednesday, as he played in his 200th career regular season game. Dennis Cholowski had a team-high six shots on net and picked up one assist. Ryan Schoettler was a team-best plus three in the win.
The Cougars (7-9-2-2) are now 2-2 against the Blazers this season and they return home for a weekend series against the Edmonton Oil Kings (5-13-2-0) at the CN Centre. Tickets for both games are available at the TicketsNorth box office, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca
-Prince George Cougars