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Cougars win fifth straight

Wednesday night at the CN Centre the Prince George Cougars extended their winning streak to five games in a wild back-and-forth affair with the Portland Winterhawks.

The Cougars held five different leads and Portland erased them all before a shootout cemented the Cougars 6-5 victory in front of 2700-plus in Prince George. Brad Morrison had a goal and two assists while Radovan Bondra, Brogan O’Brien and Colby McAuley each had two points apiece. Bondra and Jansen Harkins would add shootout goals lifting the Cougars to their league leading 33rd victory of the season. Ryan Hughes had two goals in response for the Winterhawks who fought hard for a single point despite missing both Cody Glass and Caleb Jones from their lineup.

It took only 10 seconds for the Cougars to get on the scoreboard thanks to Brad Morrison’s 19th of the season which came off a Brogan O’Brien rebound. Ryan Hughes answered for the Winterhawks at 3:05 of the first which set up a pattern that would continue until the bitter end of the game. Every time the Cougars scored, the Winterhawks seemed to have an answer.

Jansen Harkins made it 2-1 for the Cougars at 3:48 when he whacked home a Brad Morrison rebound for his 14th of the season. Harkins now has goals in three straight games, and now has four goals and three assists in his past four games. 2:55 later though Portland again tied the score when Brad Ginnell slipped his third of the season past Cougars starter Nick McBride. Portland outshot the Cougars 15-14 in the first and the game was tied 2-2 after 20.

Thirty-five seconds into the middle frame Brogan O’Brien wired his eighth past Portland starter Cole Kehler off a slick feed from Brad Morrison. Ryan Hughes answered with his second of the game at 8:08 to make it 3-3, but Radovan Bondra lifted the Cougars back on top when he converted his 23rd of the season in close on a back-hand at 13:43. Richard Matvichuk’s crew took a 4-3 lead into the third period and held a 31-24 advantage in the shot category.

Portland’s fourth goal of the game came 4:33 into the third period on a power play when Alex Overhardt redirected home a Brendan De Jong point shot in an identical type of goal to what he scored a night ago. 4-4.

Colby McAuley responded with a power play marker of his own for the Cougars when he raced down the right wing, beat the Winterhawks defender wide and scooped a shot over the left shoulder of Cole Kehler and home for his 15th of the season giving the Cougars their fifth lead of the night.

But yet again the Winterhawks just wouldn’t roll over. Jake Gricius snuck his third of the season past a sprawled Nick McBride at the 14:06 mark to once again, for a fifth time erase a Cougars lead.

Sixty minutes ended in a 5-5 tie and overtime would be necessary.

Despite an 8-1 edge in the shot department the Cougars were unable to solve Kehler in overtime. McBride’s one save at the other end proved vital as he denied Ryan Hughes on a backhand breakaway attempt to keep the game even at 5-5.

For a third time this season the Cougars headed to the shootout and for a third time they proved successful. After Nikita Popugaev and Joachim Blichfeld missed for their respective teams, Radovan Bondra put the Cougars ahead with a quick shot through the legs of Kehler.

Nick McBride made a phenomenal left pad save off of Henri Jokiharu which put the game on the stick of Jansen Harkins, who skated in close on Kehler and wired a shot past his stick and home to clinch the Cougars 33rd victory of the season.

The final shots were 53-41 for the Cougars who finished one-for-six on the power play while the Winterhawks finished two-for-five on their power play chances. The Cougars improved their home record to 1 6-6-1-0.

Next up for the Cats: A Friday night battle with the Moose Jaw Warriors which starts at 7 PM at the CN Centre! Don’t forget that Friday night is MEGA JACKPOT NIGHT and Canadian Tire has agreed to put up the first $25,000 of the (potential) record-setting 50/50 draw in Prince George.

-Prince George Cougars

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