Taylor Gauthier turned in a performance Sunday that won’t soon be forgotten. The 16-year-old goaltender, playing in his hometown, made 39-saves in the Prince George Cougars 2-1 shootout loss to the Calgary Hitmen at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
With the shootout loss, the Cougars picked up a valuable point and leave Alberta with four out of a possible six points on their three-game weekend. Josh Curtis scored the Cougars’ only goal in regulation, early in the second period, tying the game after Calgary scored in late in first frame.
Both teams had their chances on the power-play, as there was a combined 17 power-plays handed out, 10 to Prince George, but neither side could strike with the man-advantage.
Gauthier, with close to two dozen supporters on hand, was at best right away and stopped 12 of 13 shots in the opening frame. His body of work in the first was highlighted by a terrific pad save, lunging across the net deny Calgary’s Matteo Gennaro on a short-handed breakaway.
The only puck to beat Gauthier in regulation came late in the opening frame, as Tristen Nielsen just managed to muscle a shot from the slot past the Cougars’ netminder. Nielsen’s wrist’er ticked off the top of Gauthier’s glove and trickled just across the goal-line with three-minutes left.
Prince George’s best chance in the first came off the stick of Jackson Leppard but he was turned away by Schneider’s blocker after he came streaking down the left-wing.
Down a goal to start the second, the Cougars came out and tied the game early. Aaron Boyd poked the puck past a Calgary defender at the Cougars’ blue-line, creating an odd-man rush the other way. Boyd fed a streaking Curtis down the right-wing and he wired a shot over Nick Schneider’s glove for his first of the season just 57-seconds into the middle frame.
Gauthier took over after that equalizer, as he made 24 saves through two periods and two more great stops late in the second. Calgary’s Jackson Van De Leest got a pass out front from behind the net, but was not only stopped once but twice point-blank by Gauthier.
In the third period Calgary had a couple of late chances to win it but Gauthier was there to answer the bell, including an eye-popping save off of Andrei Grishakov.
With five-minutes left in the third, Hitmen defenceman Vladislav Yeryomenko threw the puck from the wall back out front towards the net. The puck knifed off a stick and hopped right over to Grishakov, who thought he had a tap-in, but Gauthier stretched out and flashed his glove to deny the Grishakov chance.
The Cougars had a great chance to pick up the extra point in overtime on a power-play, but noting materialized but they came close. Jared Bethune had his redirect go off the heel of his stick and just past the post.
Both teams showed off some skill in the shootout and it went all the way to the fifth round before a winner emerged. Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Dennis Cholowski scored in the first three rounds, before Bethune had a chance to extend the shootout in the fifth round. The veteran forward slowly moved in but his wrist-shot caught the goalie’s shoulder.
Final Score: 2-1 Calgary (Shootout)
Shots: 40-34 Calgary
Power-Plays: Cougars 0-10 Calgary 0-7
Three Stars: 1) Tristen Nielson 2) Nick Schneider 3) Taylor Gauthier
With the point Sunday, the Cougars record now sits at 4-5-2-2 through 13 games, and their road record is now 3-1-1-2. The point Sunday moves them into a three-way tie for second in the BC Division with Kelowna and Vancouver, two teams the Cougars play next weekend.
The Cougars continue their seven-game road trip in Vancouver on October 27, and Kelowna on October 28.
-Prince George Cougars