By Dan O’Connor
Prince George Cougars
The lengthy bus ride home from the Tri-Cities will be a tad more enjoyable for the Prince George Cougars after some late-game heroics Saturday in Kennewick, WA. Justin Almeida and Bartek Bison scored third period goals to help erase a 2-0 disadvantage, and Bison struck again in overtime to help lift the Cougars to a 3-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice.
After 20 minutes of play the Cougars trailed the Kootenay Ice 1-0. Matt Alfaro scored at 8:49 of the first on a power play. Prince George responded with some strong offensive pressure, but couldn’t solve Keelan Williams. After one, the Cougars held a 9-4 shot advantage but trailed 1-0.
It was a similar story in the second period. The Cougars outshot Kootenay 11-7, but couldn’t solve Williams. His best saves came off of Bartek Bison and Justin Almeida who’d eventually get rewarded for their efforts. Early in the second, Colby McAuley did his best to spark his club when he dropped the gloves with Jason Wenzel and scored the takedown.
Less than 30 seconds into the third, Josh Anderson dropped the gloves with fellow 1998-born defenceman Dallas Hines. Anderson landed a flurry of right hands before dropping Hines to the ice. Both were ejected.
4:03 into the third, Kootenay took a 2-0 lead after Vince Loschiavo one-timed a Jared Legien pass through Patrick Gora and in, but just under five minutes later the Cougars were rewarded for their territorial advantage.
Bartek Bison forced a turnover in the Kootenay zone, and skated in alone with Justin Almeida to his right. Bison fed a pass across the ice and Almeida did the rest, one timing home the Bison feed for his second goal of the preseason.
Bison wasn’t done. Far from it. He tied the game for the Cougars at the 14:13 mark off a three-on-two rush. Justin Almeida started the play with a pass to Tyler Mrkonjic on the right wing side, Mrkonjic then fed Bison a pass in the slot and he made no mistake, notching his first goal of the preseason to tie the game.
For a second time in the preseason, the Cougars would require overtime, and this time they came out on the winning side of things. With 37 seconds left in the frame, Bartek Bison raced alone on a breakaway, and after a terrific forehand deke he lifted the puck over Williams’ right pad to clinch the victory for the Cougars.
Bison factored in on all three Cougars goals, finishing with two goals and an assist. Prince George outshot the Ice 36-17. The Cougars went zero-for-six on the power play while Kootenay finished one-of-six on their chances.
With the preseason win, the Cougars record now sits at 2-2-0-1. Their final preseason test will come Saturday night when they play host to the Kamloops Blazers.