The Prince George Cougars are going back home across the border with a win in their back pocket. The Cougars earned a 5-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans Saturday, at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Washington.
The Cougars got goals from five different players, including Ilijah Colina, who scored his first goal in Cougars colours, and was named the game’s first star after his two-point night. Joel Lakusta, Jackson Leppard, Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Jared Bethune also scored for the Prince George, who won their second game against Tri-City in a week. Tavin Grant was sharp in net, turning aside 26 of 28 shots, picking up his 11th win of the season.
Jake Bean scored his first goal in an Americans jersey and Parker AuCoin scored midway through the third, as Tri-City lost their third in a row, as they’ve been bitten by the injury bug in January; they only had eight regular forwards dressed.
Prince George struck first, scoring just over two-minutes into the game, when Lakusta steered his point-shot through traffic and past Patrick Dea on the stick-side on the power-play at 2:22; Lakusta’s his fifth of the season.
That was the only scoring in a fast paced first period, which saw the Cougars outshoot the Americans 10-5.
The Cougars added to their lead in the second period, as Ilijah Colina scored his first goal with the Cougars. Jared Bethune tried to tuck the puck in at the side of the net but it dribbled across the crease. Josh Maser had the puck come out to him after Bethune missed, but he couldn’t tuck it in either. It eventually came behind the net to Colina, and as Dea was trying to scramble back into position, Colina put it off the goalie and in from below the goal-line at 7:30.
Tri-City’s newcomer, Jake Bean, got the home side on the scoreboard midway through the frame, capitalizing on a rebound during an Americans power-play. Tavin Grant made a pad save on the initial shot, but the rebound kicked right to Bean who went upstairs at 9:54 to make it 2-1.
Prince George had a great response, not only killing-off another Americans power-play after that, but they then scored two more goals to go up 4-1. First, Jackson Leppard finished off a great passing play between four Cougars, as he scored off the rush from the left-wing circle at 13:40 to make it 3-1. Lakusta, Colina, Mikhalchuk all touched the puck before it was dished to Leppard in the circle. Then, Mikhalchuk scored in the final half minute of the second to put the Cougars up three.
Josh Curtis broke down the left-wing in full flight, shielding the puck on his backhand, before spotting Mikhalchuk at the opposite side of the net. Curtis put the puck right on the tape of Mikhalchuk for an easy tap in from the top of the crease. Mikhalchuk scoring with just 25-seconds left in the second period.
Things settled down, somewhat, in the third period as they only combined for 12-shots. Tri-City cut the deficit in half, again, as Parker AuCoin made it 4-2 near the midway mark. AuCoin grabbed the puck in the face-off circle and snuck a shot five-hole on Grant at 9:23. That is how close the Americans would get.
Tri-City pulled the goalie in the final two-minutes, looking to get back within one but the Cougars withstood the pressure, and Bethune iced it, skating the puck down into an empty-net with 56-seconds left.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Cougars
Power-Plays: Cougars 1-3 Tri-City 1-4
Three Stars: 1) Ilijah Colina 2) Jake Bean 3) Vladislav Mikhalchuk
The Cougars (17-20-4-3) return home to face the Seattle Thunderbirds (20-16-4-0) at the CN Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm. It’s a big two-game set, as the Cougars are just five points back of the Thunderbirds, who hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Tickets for both games are available at the TicketsNorth box office at the CN Centre, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca
-Prince George Cougars