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Cougars capture B.C. Division title

Brandon Guhle

A crowd of 5,806 strong roared with appreciation as the clock hit zero in the third period with the game tied 1-1. That single point meant that the Prince George Cougars clinched their very first B.C. Division title. The Kamloops Blazers would end up winning the game 2-1 in the shootout, but that fact wouldn’t dampen the celebration as a loyal fan base was rewarded for their 23 years of patience and passion! Brendan Guhle had the Cougars lone goal in regulation while Collin Shirley struck for Kamloops. Goaltenders Ty Edmonds and Dylan Ferguson were brilliant for their respective teams combining for 77 saves.

The game was scoreless after one period despite a massive edge for the Cougars in shots. They fired 18 shots at Ferguson in the first period but could not solve the 18-year-old. Ty Edmonds made eight saves of his own in the first, his best of which came late off of Rudolfs Balcers from in close.

23 seconds into the second period though the Blazers solved Edmonds when captain Collin Shirley took a pass at the goal line, maneuvered his way in front of the goal and slipped home his 28th of the season to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The Cougars kept coming but every time they came close, Dylan Ferguson had the answer. He turned aside the first 30 shots he faced, many of which were ‘Grade A’ chances.

Finally at the 14:56 mark of the second the Cougars solved Ferguson when Brendan Guhle took a pass from Kody McDonald in the slot and rifled his 15th of the season past his blocker and home to send the 5806 fans into a frenzy!

Through two periods the score was tied 1-1 with the Cougars outshooting Kamloops 36 – 22.

Neither team would solve the other in the third period despite some terrific chances at both ends. Ty Edmonds made a clutch pad save in the final minutes off of Rudolfs Balcers, and Dylan Ferguson was his steady self turning aside all 10 shots he faced from the Cougars.

As the minutes ticked away in the third the fans grew increasingly louder, and once the final minute started ticking away they stood in unison! The noise when the clock hit zero was deafening at the CN Centre as the Cougars had officially clinched their first ever division title in their 23-year history.

The jacked up crowd had to wait with anticipation as the overtime also came and went without a winner determined.

To make matters even more dramatic, the shootout lasted eight full rounds with each team scoring twice in the first seven rounds. Finally in the second half of the eighth round the Blazers ended the game when 16-year-old Brodi Stuart snuck his shot ‘just’ past Ty Edmonds to give the Blazers the second point and the victory.

With the single point the Cougars finish the 2016-17 season with a record of 45-21-3-3. Their 96 points is a franchise best for Prince George and it means that they’ll have home ice advantage when the first round of the playoffs begin on Friday next week. The Blazers will face Kelowna in the first round as the number three seed in the B.C. Division.

The Cougars first round playoff opponent is down to two possibilities: The Portland Winterhawks or the Tri-City Americans. The Cougars will know their first round opponent by about 7:30 p.m. tonight.

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