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Thunderbirds win first end of doubleheader

Prince George Cougars lose to the Thunderbirds. Photo courtesy of the Cougars

The Seattle Thunderbirds drew first blood in the weekend double-header in Prince George. Donovan Neuls struck 1:33 into the third period breaking up a 2-2 tie for the T-Birds who were able to withstand a late surge by the Cougars to hold onto their 16th victory. Keegan Kolesar added a goal and an assist for Seattle while goaltender Rylan Toth turned aside 25 of the 27 shots fired his way. Jesse Gabrielle and Yan Khomenko supplied the Cougar goals, both of which came in the first period.

 Coming off a 6-1 loss Wednesday in Kelowna the T-Birds came flying out of the gates outshooting the Cougars 5-0 in the early minutes. But a shorthanded breakaway opportunity for Jesse Gabrielle turned the early tide and 3:07 into the first the Cougars leading goal scorer buried his 19th on a back-hand deke to put his team up 1-0.

Sami Moilanen tied the game for Seattle at 10:23 of the first period when he knocked home a Jarret Tyszka rebound past Cougars starter Ty Edmonds for his eighth of the season.

66 seconds later though the Cougars answered when Yan Khomenko followed up an Aaron Boyd rebound and snuck a low shut underneath the left pad of Rylan Toth and home for his ninth, restoring the Cougars lead.

Despite an 11-10 shot advantage for Seattle after one the Cougars led 2-1 at the break.

2:22 into the second though Seattle once again erased the Cougars lead. This time it was Keegan Kolesar who skated across the Cougars blueline and wired a shot past the glove of Ty Edmonds and under the crossbar for his second of the season.

The teams traded chances throughout the remainder of the second but both Edmonds and Toth stood their ground and the game was tied through 40 minutes with the Cougars holding a modest 22-20 edge in the shot category.

Just 93 seconds into the third the T-Birds took their first and only lead of the night that they would need when Donovan Neuls knocked home his ninth off a scramble in front of Ty Edmonds who had strugggled to play a puck behind his net in the seconds prior to the go-ahead goal.

A late surge from the Cougars proved unsuccessful as Toth and his defencemen did their part keeping the Cougars shooters at bay. The final shots were 30-27 for Seattle who finished the game zero-for-five on the power play. At the other end the Cougars were zero-for-four on their power play chances and are now just one for their last 25.

Despite their loss the Cougars still hold a seven point lead on the Kelowna Rockets for first in the B.C. Division and they’ll look to move back above .500 on their current home stand when they host the T-Birds again on Saturday for Teddy Bear Toss.

– Prince George Cougars

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