Cougars ground the Rockets


James Doyle photo
James Doyle photo

All the Prince George Cougars needed to cure what ailed them was some home cooking and a good night’s sleep in their own bed.

The Cougars marked their return home with a 4-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets, at the CN Centre on Tuesday. Prince George scored four unanswered goals, including three in the second period, as they snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Rockets, and won for the first time in four games.

It was a nice start to the Cougars six-game home stand, which sees them play four games in five nights against the Rockets and Victoria Royals.

Joel Lakusta had a goal and an assist, Jared Bethune chipped in with two helpers, and Austin Crossley, Josh Maser and Vladislav Mikhalchuk also scored. Taylor Gauthier was solid between the pipes, stopping 20 of 21 shots for his sixth win of the season.

Erik Gardiner was the only Rocket to beat Gauthier, as Kelowna has now lost seven of their last 10 road games. Brodan Salmond started for the Rockets but was replaced by James Porter late in the second period.

It was the Rockets scoring first, on the power-play, as Gardiner’s cheeky chip shot just snuck inside the far-post. From the goal-line, Gardiner chipped the puck up and over Gauthier and a couple of defenders, as it fluttered in at 12:45.

The Cougars got back on even terms late in the opening period, when the two teams were skating four-on-four. Jared Bethune pushed the puck ahead to Vladislav Mikhalchuk, who wired a wrist-shot past Brodan Salmond from the face-off circle at 17:31; Mikhalchuk scoring his fourth goal in his last five games.

Prince George found another gear in the second period, putting up three goals in the middle frame and outshot the Rockets 11-5.

Austin Crossley grabbed the Cougars their first lead, firing a wrist-shot off the post and in from the blue-line at 3:20 to make it 2-1. On a delayed penalty coming the Rockets, Brogan O’Brien put the puck back to Crossley, who had his shot go off the inside the post and past Salmond on the glove-side; his first goal since January 20th.

The Cougars kept coming and it was Maser making it 3-1 with just under seven-minutes to play. Josh Curtis alertly fired a shot from the right-wing off the goalie’s pad, which bounced out to Maser in the slot, who scored on a backhand at 13:05; his team-best 26th goal.

Lakusta capped off the scoring in the second on a Cougars’ power-play. He fired a low shot from the blue-line that found its way past traffic and Salmond at 16:19. That goal spelt the end of the night for Salmond, who was replaced by Porter.

Prince George limited the Rockets to just 10 shots in the final two periods, including just five in the third period.

FINAL SCORE: 4-1 Cougars

Shots: 21-18

Power-Plays: Cougars 1-3 Rockets 1-4

Three Stars: 1) Joel Lakusta 2) Jared Bethune 3) Austin Crossley

The Cougars (21-33-4-4) win Tuesday, was their first against the Rockets since November 15th, of last season. The Cougars also improved their home record to 11-15-3-1. Jared Bethune now has three goals and nine points in six games against the Rockets.

The two teams meet again tomorrow, Wednesday, February 28, at the CN Centre; puck drop is 7 p.m. It’s “Teen Wednesday,” as Brownridge Insurance and Earls Kitchen & Bar are offering $5 tickets to teens aged 13 to 19 years old. Tickets are available at the TicketsNorth box office at the CN Centre.

-Prince George Cougars

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