Jesse Gabrielle’s Gordie Howe Hat-Trick helped spark the Prince George Cougars to their 37th victory of the 2016-17 season Tuesday on a bitterly cold evening in Northern B.C. The Boston Bruins prospect had a goal, two assists and a first period fight with Tristyn DeRoose in what would ultimately become a 4-1 victory for the Cougars over the Vancouver Giants. Sam Ruopp and Jared Bethune had two points each while Radovan Bondra opened the scoring against his former team. Nick McBride earned his fifth straight victory in goal turning aside 25 of the 26 shots fired his way as the Cougars snapped their two game losing skid.
Jason McKee’s Giants never make life easy on the Cougars though and at 8:10 of the second period they managed to tie the score when Jack Flaman knocked his 13th of the season past Nick McBride off a Marcus Kichton rebound. Flaman’s marker would be the only blemish for Nick McBride who improved his record to 11-4-1-0 with the win.
Jared Bethune restored the Cougars lead at the 15:47 mark of the second when he converted his 15th of the season off a Josh Curtis pass. Jesse Gabrielle added an assist on the go-ahead goal which would end up being the game winner. It was Bethune’s fifth goal in seven games this season against Vancouver. Through two periods the Cats led 23-20 in shots.
After killing off an early third period penalty the home side took complete control of the game when Nikita Popugaev snapped a nine game goal-scoring drought at 5:34. Mere seconds after a Giants penalty had expired, Popugaev skated into the right wing circle and fired a perfect shot over the right shoulder of Kubic and underneath the crossbar for his 25th goal and a 3-1 Cougar lead.
Jesse Gabrielle would then complete his Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal off his own rebound at 12:20 off the rush. Gabrielle’s 26th of the season was assisted by both Ryan Schoettler and Jared Bethune.
The final shots on goal were 33-26 for the Cougars who improved to 6-1 against the Giants this season and 37-16-3-0 overall. Still through 56 games the Cougars have yet to lose more than two in a row thanks to Tuesday’s triumph. The Cats finished zero-for-three on the power play and a perfect two-for-two on the penalty kill.
Next up: The rematch! The Cougars and Giants will meet one more time in 2016-17 on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at CN Centre.
-Prince George Cougars