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Chiefs sweep Cougars in season-opening series

The Prince George Cougars will head out across the border next week still in search of their first win on the young WHL season, after dropping a 5-1 decision to the Spokane Chiefs Saturday night at the CN Centre.

Jared Bethune did put the home side up early, four-minutes into the first period but it was Spokane responding quickly, with a goal 28-seconds later from Rykr Cole, which was the start of five unanswered from the Chiefs. Hudson Elynuik, Nolan Reid, Eli Zummack and Riley Woods also found the back of the net for the visitors.

16-year-old Taylor Gauthier, the Cougars’ first round WHL Bantam Draft pick in 2016, made his debut Saturday and he stopped 19 of 24 shots steered his way. Dawson Weatherill picked up his second straight win, kicking out 23 of 25 PG shots.

It was a much better start for the Cougars, as 20-year-old Jared Bethune, who was not in the line-up Friday, made an immediate impact upon his return. Vladislav Mikhalchuk forced a turnover just outside the Cougars’ end and was off to the races the other way. The Belarusian was stopped by the goalie’s pad on his partial breakaway but Bethune was there to clean up the rebound from right inside the crease at 4:25. The celebration however was quickly muted.

Just 28-seconds after Bethune put the Cougars up 1-0, Spokane’s Rykr Cole tied things up. The Chiefs’ forward found himself wide open at the side of the net for a backdoor pass from Riley Woods.

Later in the frame the Chiefs took their first lead of the game and on a similar scoring play as to their first goal. With seven-minutes left in the period, Hayden Ostir, Taylor Ross and Hudson Elynuik combined for a quick tic-tac-toe passing play out front. It was Elynuik finishing things off, scoring from the top of the crease after a nice setup from Ostir, who was standing below the goal-line.

Nolan Reid added to Spokane’s lead in the second, scoring the only goal of the stanza and after a nice setup from fellow defenceman Ty Smith. Smith came down the right-wing, delayed, and then swung the puck over to Reid on the left-side and he hammered a one-timer past a sprawled Gauthier at 2:48.

Staring at a 3-1 third period deficit, the Cougars mounted their best effort in the final 20-minutes, outshooting the Chiefs 10-5 and in fact, held Spokane without a shot for well over half the period. However, the Cougars offense couldn’t find any traction. Their best chance came on a backdoor setup for Ryan Schoettler. Josh Curtis spotted a pinching Schoettler coming off the blue-line but his shot from in front went high and wide.

Spokane put the finishing touches on the weekend sweep with two late goals. First it was Eli Zummack sliding the puck into an empty-net with 2-minutes left to make it 4-1. Then in the dying moments of the game, Riley Woods picked up his second point of the night, scoring on his own rebound with just 20-seconds left.

Final Score: 5-1 Spokane

Shots: 25-25

Power-Plays: Cougars 0-4 Spokane 0-4

Three Stars: 1) Nolan Reid 2) Ty Smith 3) Ryan Schoettler

The Cougars (0-2) now head out on the road for a three-game road swing through Seattle, Portland and Kamloops, starting Friday in the emerald city. Then it’s off to Portland on Sunday afternoon, before wrapping up the trip in Kamloops on October 4.

-Prince George Cougars

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