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Cougars need one point tonight to clinch division title

Jesse Gabrielle (Photo courtesy of the Cougars)

With one game remaining in their regular season the Cougars are one single point away from clinching the B.C. Division title. Friday night in Kamloops the Cougars earned their 45th victory of the season – A 3-1 triumph over the Kamloops Blazers. Jesse Gabrielle notched two goals for PG while Nikita Popugaev and Josh Anderson each had two assists. Ty Edmonds made 24 saves on 25 shots faced to earn the 100th victory of his WHL career. Nick Holowko had the lone goal for the Blazers who can now finish no better than third in the B.C. Division.

Kody McDonald got the Cougars on the board at the 18:08 mark of the first period. Aaron Boyd started the play with a great pass off the rush to McDonald along the left wing. McDonald skated in close, spun around along the goal line and was able to stuff his 17th of the season past Blazers starter Connor Ingram. The shots after one period were 12-6 favoring the Cougars.

3:47 into the middle frame the Cats extended their lead to 2-0 when Jesse Gabrielle stuffed home his own rebound from in close for his 34th of the season. Gabrielle’s marker was assisted by both Jared Bethune and Nikita Popugaev.

Popougaev and Gabrielle would combine on another Cougar goal a few minutes later at the 7:36 mark. Off a turnover at the Cougars blueline Popugaev raced down the left wing two-on-one with Gabrielle. Once they crossed the Blazers blueline Popugaev slid a perfect cross-ice pass to Gabrielle who one-timed home his second of the night and 35th of the season from the bottom of the right circle.

Just over two minutes later the Blazers snagged what would end up as their only goal of the night when Nick Holowko crashed the net and was able to redirect home a pass from Garrett Pilon from the right wing. Holowko’s seventh was also assisted by Blazers captain Collin Shirley.

After two periods the Cougars held a 30-15 edge in shots and took a 3-1 lead into the final period.

From there, Ty Edmonds turned aside all 10 shots fired his way in the final period. His best save came in the final minutes off of Jermaine Loewen who was denied point blank by his left pad. Edmonds’ finished the game with 24 saves on 25 shots fired his way to earn his 31st victory of the season and the 100th of his career. Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram made eight saves in the third and finished the night with 35 saves on the 38 shots fired his way. Neither team was able to score on the power play as the Blazers went zero-for-four while the Cats finished zero-for-two.

The 3-1 Cougars victory marked their 23rd road win and their 45th victory overall. They improved their record against Kamloops this season to 5-1-1-0. With the victory the Cougars remain two points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets for first in the B.C. Division and can now clinch the division for the first time ever with at least a single point in the rematch between the two clubs that goes Saturday night at CN Centre.

-Prince George Cougars

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