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Cougars stay in first place with win over Tri-City

Jesse Gabrielle

The Prince George Cougars are still alone at the top of the B.C. Division. Friday night in Kennewick, WA the Prince George Cougars earned their 43rd victory of the season in dominant fashion. Jesse Gabrielle had two goals, Radovan Bondra had a goal and an assist and Ty Edmonds made 29 saves on 30 shots faced to help steer the Cougars to a 6-1 road victory over the Tri-City Americans. The Cougars power play finished three-for-four as the Cougars handed the Ams just their ninth regulation home ice loss of the season.

 At 4:06 of the opening period the Cougars grabbed the lead when Jesse Gabrielle roofed his 32nd of the season through traffic over the right shoulder of Tri-City starter Rylan Parenteau. Gabrielle’s goal was the first of three power play goals on the night for the Cougars who are now eight for their last 18 on the man advantage.

Kyle Olson answered with Tri-City’s lone goal of the game at the 6:28 mark, but 11 seconds later the Cougars restored their lead when Jared Bethune crossed into the Tri-City zone and zapped a quick shot past the glove of Parenteau. Bethune’s 21st of the season came unassisted.

From there the Cougars kept coming but were unable to solve Parenteau again in the first. He made a tremendous glove save off a Jansen Harkins breakway in the final seconds of the period to ensure that the home side only trailed 2-1 after one. The shots were 16-9 for the Cougars.

Early in the second the Cougars scored the first of what would end up being three unanswered second period markers. At 2:04 Jesse Gabrielle converted on his second power play goal of the game, then Cougars captain Sam Ruopp got in on the act when he snapped home his fourth of the season off a shot from the right point.

Ruopp’s goal spelt the end of the night for Parenteau who was pulled from the Tri-City goal after allowing four goals on 19 shots faced.

In came Evan Sarthou who made some timely saves early for the Americans. Eventually though the Cougars would solve him when Radovan Bondra knocked home a Kody McDonald rebound from the right side of the net to make the score 5-1. Bondra now has four goals and nine assists for 13 points in his last six games. Period two ended with the Cats ahead 5-1 and they were outshooting Tri-City 37-19 after 40 minutes.

Richard Matvichuk’s Cougars peppered Sarthou with 11 more shots in the final period, and would get rewarded once more on the power play in the waning minutes of the game. Jansen Harkins struck for his 21st of the season with less than five minutes remaining to finalize what would end up being a 6-1 victory for the Cougars.

Between the pipes, Ty Edmonds was sharp for the Cougars as he finished with 29 saves on 30 shots faced. The victory for Edmonds marks his 30th of the season and the 99th of his career. The final shots were 48-30 for the Cougars who improved their season record to 43-21-3-2. It also marked the third time in 23 years that the Cougars have earned 43 victories, which remains a franchise best.

With the win, the Cougars remain two points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets and five points ahead of Kamloops for first in the B.C. Division. Now with three games remaining in their season, the Cougars will look to maintain that lead when they take the ice Saturday for the fourth and final time against the Spokane Chiefs, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week on Wednesday. A victory in Spokane would also ensure that the Cougars can finish no lower than second in the B.C. Division standings.

-Prince George Cougars

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