Special teams the difference as Blazers beat Cougars



It came down to special teams and the Kamloops Blazers came out on top, edging the Prince George Cougars 3-2 Friday night at the CN Centre.

Blazers’ forward Jermaine Loewen broke a 2-2 tie with just 40-seconds left in the third period, as Kamloops won their third-straight game in Prince George. Kamloops scored the only power-play goal Friday, on a combined eight opportunities.

The Cougars had their own chance on the power-play in the third period to break the tie, but they couldn’t manufacture a go-ahead goal on a five-minute man-advantage, as the Blazers held them to just one shot.

Ilijah Colina and Kjell Kjemhus scored in the first period for the Cougars, and Taylor Gauthier stopped 30 of 33 shots.

It was an eventful first period, even an eventful first 10-minutes of the game, as the two teams combined for four goals. The Cougars scored on their first two shots of the game.

However, it was Kamloops opening the scoring and just 1:37 in. Ryley Appelt whacked in a rebound from out front, after Joe Gatenby had his point-shot blocked. The puck bounced right to Appelt of a Cougars’ defenceman, and he put it past Gauthier on the glove-side.

Prince George responded quickly, as they tied the game just over a minute later. Colina made it 1-1 after he finished off a two-on-one rush with Josh Maser. Kamloops goaltender Dylan Ferguson got a piece of Maser’s shot, but it trickled through his arm and Colina shoveled it in at 2:46. The Cougars wasted no time taking their first lead.

51-seconds after Colina lit the lamp, it was Kjemhus putting the Cougars ahead for the first time. The puck came back to Austin Crossley and his wrist-shot from the blue-line was redirected by Kjemhus, and over Ferguson’s arm at 3:37, for his first in the WHL.

Kamloops tied it up and just before the midway mark of the opening frame. Blazers Captain Nick Chyzowski darted down the right-wing and centered the puck to Jackson Sheppard, who tipped the pass over Gauthier’s arm at 9:44.

After the two teams combined for four goals inside the first 10-minutes, they would be locked in a 2-2 deadlock for the next 49-minutes.

Prince George had a couple of good looks in the second to break the tie, and their best chance came off the stick of Colina. On the power-play, Ethan Browne made a great cross-ice pass to Colina, but he pushed it just past the post as he charged the net from the right-wing.

It remained tied 2-2 through the halfway mark of the third, and then the Cougars were handed a five-minute power-play. The Blazers’ Tylor Ludwar was assessed a kneeing major after sticking out his leg on Joel Lakusta.

However, the Cougars didn’t generate much traction on the power-play, as the Kamloops penalty-kill held them to just one shot on the five-minute stretch.

Just after that power-play, Gauthier was called into action and made a point-blank save on Justin Sigrist to preserve the 2-2 tie. Sigrist found himself alone in front and got a pass from out behind the goal, but his one-timer was squeezed by Gauthier with five-minutes left.

The Blazers then went on the power-play with just over two-minutes left in regulation and they capitalized late. Inside the final minute, Nolan Kneen walked in off the wall, but he had his shot stopped in front. The rebound sat at the top of the crease for a moment, before Loewen backhanded it in past a fallen Gauthier at 19:20.

Just before that goal by Loewen, Josh Curtis had a chance short-handed, but he was stopped by Ferguson on the odd-man rush.

FINAL SCORE: 3-2 Blazers

Shots: 33-28 Blazers

Power-Plays: Cougars 0/5 Blazers 1/3

Three Stars: 1) Taylor Gauthier 2) Joe Gatenby 3) Kjell Kjemhus

Brendan Boyle made his WHL debut Friday for the Cougars. The 16-year-old was called up from the Okanagan Rockets in the BC Major Midget League. Prior to the game, Joel Lakusta was named the Cougars’ Player of the Month for January, after he had 13 points in 15 games last month. The Cougars wore their custom lumberjack themed jerseys Friday, and fans can bid on the game-worn jerseys on the team’s website.

The rematch goes tomorrow night, as the Cougars (19-28-4-4) look for the weekend split against their BC Division rivals; puck drop is 7 pm. Tickets are available at the TicketsNorth box office at the CN Centre, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca

-Prince George Cougars

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