With their 18th road victory of the season the Prince George Cougars have matched their previous season high for road victories in a season. But it took every ounce of energy for the Cougars to gut out their latest victory Monday in Langley. Jared Bethune had the Cougars lone goal in regulation while Nikita Popugaev, Radovan Bondra and Jansen Harkins all scored in the shootout for the Cougars who defeated the Giants 2-1. Nick McBride was solid between the pipes for the Cougars turning aside 30 of the 31 shots he faced to earn his third straight victory and his ninth of the season. The only blemish on McBride during regulation came at 15:49 of the final period when Dawson Holt snuck a shot over his left shoulder to tie the game while shorthanded.
Nick McBride and Giants starter Ryan Kubic went unscathed during a scoreless first period that saw the Cougars outshoot the Giants 11-8. For the Cougars it was a very structured period with plenty of hustle and few mistakes.
Early in the second though the Cougars would solve Kubic when Jared Bethune knocked his 13th of the season across the line from in close. Brad Morrison got the play started with a great pass across the ice to Brendan Guhle. Guhle drove the defender wide, wrapped the puck around the net and found Bethune at the side yo make it 1-0 for the Cats.
From there both Kubic and McBride continued their excellence with each making some important saves. Kubic’s best save came off Jesse Gabrielle who tried to go up high and in, while McBride made a sensational sprawling diving save off of Calvin Spencer. Shots were 21-17 favoring the Cougars through two and they maintained their 1-0 lead.
With time winding down in the third period the Cougars were given a late power play, but Vancouver would be the team that capitalized. After a miscue at the Cougar blueline, Dawson Holt raced up the ice, down the right wing on a two-on-one rush. He looked off his teammate and the Cougars defender before placing a perfect shot over McBride’s shoulder and home to tie the game at one. For Holt it was his sixth goal of the season.
From there, neither team would be able to solve the other as McBride and Kubic both continued to steal the show. James Malm had a terrific chance to win it in the final minutes for Vancouver but McBride dove across his crease to prevent him from scoring. In overtime Brad Morrison had a chance in close to end the game for the Cougars but Ryan Kubic slid out his right pad in desperation to keep the puck out.
For a third time in 10 days the Cougars would need a shootout to determine the outcome of one of their games.
Dawson Holt was first up for Vancouver but was turned away by Nick McBride.
Nikita Popugaev kicked off the shootout for the Cougars with a quick shot that snuck through the legs of Kubic.
James Malm was up next for Vancouver and he moved in close on McBride and was convert on a back-hand deke, but back came former Giant Radovan Bondra who glided down the right wing before placing a quick shot past Kubic.
Vancouver kept themselves alive when newcomer Brayden Watt was able to ‘just’ sneak a forehand deke past the right pad of McBride.
That set the stage for Jansen Harkins. The Winnipeg Jets prospect skated across the blueline and from the slot paced a quick snap shot past the blocker of Kubic and upstairs to cement the Cougars victory.
With the win the Cougars record improved to 34-13-3-0. Their 18th road victory matches their highest ever for a season and it snapped a two game losing streak meaning that through 50 games this season the Cougars have still yet to lose more than two games in a row. Both teams finished the night zero-for-five on the power play and the final shots favored the Cougars 34-31. Their lead on the B.C. Division now sits at 10 points, but they have also played in two more games than the second placed Kamloops Blazers.
Now the Cougars will head East to pend a few nights team-building in Banff, AB. Richard Matvichuk’s crew will return to the ice for their next game on Friday, January 27th in Red Deer against the Rebels.
-Prince George Cougars