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Cougars notch first win of the season

The Prince George Cougars got a measure of revenge on the Portland Winterhawks Sunday afternoon. In their first encounter since last season’s playoff series, the Cougars walked out of Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a 3-0 win, handing the Winterhawks their first loss on the season.


Tavin Grant, making his second start of the season, backstopped the Cougars to their first win, stopping all 47 shots directed his way. Not only did Grant pick up his first career WHL shutout, but he tied a franchise record for most saves for a shutout; Real Cyr also had a 47-save shutout in 2002.

Kody McDonald, Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Jackson Leppard all scored their first goal of the season, and for the Belarusian it was his first career WHL goal.

McDonald, who just recently played in his 200th career regular season game, opened the scoring just before the five-minute mark. Jared Bethune cut in down the right-wing, before dropping the puck to McDonald, who squeezed a backhand through Shane Farkas’ legs.

Prince George was handed a four-minute power-play inside the final two minutes of the first, after Keoni Texeira was given a double minor for hitting Nikita Popugaev from behind into the corner boars. Luckily the New Jersey Devils draft pick wasn’t seriously hurt and the Cougars didn’t squander the opportunity.

Inside the first minute of the second period, Mikhalchuk doubled PG’s lead on that power-play, as he parked himself in front of the net and tipped a point-shot past Farkas just 47-seconds into the frame.

The power-play continued and the Cougars scored again, a minute and a half later, as Jackson Leppard swatted in a rebound out from at 2:13. Joel Lakusta fired a waist-high shot from the blue-line that was stopped but the rebound bounced into the crease and Leppard was in prime position to shovel in the loose puck.

Portland racketed up the pressure towards the end of the second and were handed a five-on-three power-play after PG took two penalties 58-seconds apart. The Cougars penalty-kill held Portland’s big guns at bay and all night, as the Winterhawks couldn’t score on any of their six man-advantages. That included a late power-play that turned into a six-on-four after Portland pulled their goalie

One of Grant’s best saves in third period came off of Evan Weinger during that late Portland power-play. With the Winterhawks net empty, Weinger was camped out at the back post but couldn’t jam the puck past Grant, who managed to quickly lunge across and get his blocker to the shot.

Final Score: 3-0 Prince George

Shots: 47-29 Portland

Power-Plays: Prince George 2-2 Portland 0-7

Three Stars: 1) Tavin Grant 2) Jared Bethune 3) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Prince George (1-3-0-0) heads back across the border Monday, as they make their way to Kamloops, for a Wednesday night clash with the Blazers (0-5-0-0-0) at the Sandman Centre; puck drop is 7 pm. Fans can listen to the game on 94.3 The Goat, or they can watch on WHL Live.

-Prince George Cougars

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