The Prince George Cougars ended their six-game East Division road trip Saturday, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Moose Jaw Warriors at Mosaic Place.
Prince George went 1-4-0-1 on the tour through Saskatchewan and Manitoba and now get set to play the Kamloops Blazers next weekend.
Moose Jaw, the top-ranked team in the WHL, got goals from Brayden Burke, Justin Almeida, Brandon Schuldhaus and Tate Popple, as they snapped their two-game winless skid.
Josh Maser spoiled Adam Evanoff’s shutout bid late in the third period, scoring his team-leading 23rd goal of the season. It was the goalie at the other end of the rink stealing the spotlight, as 16-year-old Taylor Gauthier made 44-saves and was named the third star of the game.
Moose Jaw applied pressure early, but Gauthier was there to rebuff the attack. One of his best saves in the opening frame, was when he went post-to-post to make a split save on Brayden Burke. Though Moose Jaw’s top scorer would get his revenge.
Burke, who leads the WHL in scoring, broke the scoreless deadlock with two and a half minutes left in the first period, tucking in a cross-ice pass on the stick side at 17:26.
Cougars had their chances to tie it before the period ended and both Brogan O’Brien and Jackson Leppard had close calls. O’Brien just missed tipping in a pass from the right-wing, as his deflection darted wide of the post. Leppard, with just 18-seconds left, grabbed the puck in the face-off circle but his wrist-shot just was held onto by Evanoff.
The Warriors added to their 1-0 lead late in the second period, as Justin Almeida scored on the power-play. The puck was worked around, before coming to Almeida between the circles, and he went upstairs over Gauthier’s glove at 14:34. Just before that, on the same power-play, Gauthier made a spectacular save off of Josh Brook. Gauthier somehow slid across and got his arm to Brook’s shot at the side of the net.
Moose Jaw added to their lead in the third period, as Tate Popple made it 3-0 10-minutes in. Popple found himself open at the side of the net, and turned back onto his fore-hand, before going upstairs at 10:43.
Things got heated moments later, as Austin Crossley squared off with Trystin DeRoose in a spirited scrap.
A minute and a half after that scrap, Brandon Schuldhaus made it 4-0 for the Warriors. The Warriors defenceman stepped into a slap-shot at the blue-line that Gauthier got a piece of, but not enough, as it just snuck in at 12:37.
Maser broke up the shutout bid with less than four-minutes left. The puck came to him at the top for the crease, and he fired it into an open net and over Evanoff at 16:50.
FINAL SCORE: 4-1 Warriors
Shots: 48-23 Warriors
Power-Plays: Cougars 1/3 Warriors 1/7
Three Stars: 1) Justin Almeida 2) Brett Howden 3) Taylor Gauthier
The Cougars (19-27-4-4) make the trek back home and prepare for a two-game set at the CN Centre, next weekend against the Kamloops Blazers, starting on Friday, February 9th. It’s Lumberjack Night, as the Cougars will be wearing custom lumberjack jerseys, that will be put up for auction after the game. Tickets are available at the TicketsNorth box office, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca
-Prince George Cougars