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Cougars topple Giants, snap losing streak

 

The Prince George Cougars snapped their five-game winless streak and in style, cruising to a 6-2 win over the Vancouver Giants Saturday night at the CN Centre.

Jared Bethune led the way with a goal and three points, and Aaron Boyd, Ethan O’Rourke, Brogan O’Brien, Josh Curtis and Joel Lakusta all lit the lamp. Rookie Taylor Gauthier stopped 22 of 24 shots for his third win, as the Cougars earned the weekend split over their divisional rivals.

Former Cougar and Prince George native Brad Morrison scored twice for the Giants, who had their two-game win streak snapped. Fellow rookie netminder Todd Scott was saddled with the loss in the Giants’ net, turning aside 28 of 34 shots.

Gauthier was tested early, as he stopped Morrison on a breakaway in the opening moments of the game. Morrison got in behind the Cougars’ defence but his backhand attempt was kicked out by Gauthier. The former Cougar got a measure of revenge later in the opening frame.

The Giants opened up the scoring late in the first and on a five-minute power-play. Halfway through the major penalty, Morrison picked the corner, firing over Gauthier’s glove from the right-wing circle at 15:32.

Prince George rallied, as Aaron Boyd and Ethan O’Rourke scored 18-seconds apart, to quickly turn a 1-0 deficit into a one-goal lead; both scoring during a four-on-four sequence.

Boyd tied it two-minutes after the Giants scored, as he tipped in a pass from Jared Bethune at 17:43. Boyd made a b-line to the net and he reached out and redirected the puck through Scott’s arm. On the very next shift, Joel Lakusta spotted a wide-open Ethan O’Rourke in front of the net, and he tapped in a backdoor pass from the blue paint. Both Boyd and O’Rourke scoring their fifth goals of the season in less than half a minute.

Morrison was at it again in the second, tying the game 2-2 on his own rebound. Gauthier made an acrobatic glove save on Morrison’s first attempt, but the puck went off the tip of his trapper and right back to Morrison who tapped it in at 6:23.

Prince George went back ahead on a short-handed penalty-shot midway through the frame. O’Brien drew the penalty after out hustling the Giants defenceman through the neutral zone. On the penalty-shot, O’Brien crept in down the right-wing, slowly moving toward the goal, before firing a wrist-shot over Scott’s shoulder. O’Brien scoring his 10th goal at 10:14.

The Cougars picked in the third, where they left off in the second, as Bethune padded the lead not even two-minutes in. Josh Curtis made a great play, knocking down a dump in at the blue-line before dropping the puck to Bethune, who snapped a shot from the slot 1:39 into the third; Bethune scoring his third goal in as many games.

Curtis put the game out of reach late, scoring on the power-play with less than four-minutes left. Jared Bethune missed from the blue-line but the puck caromed off the glass behind the net, and bounced back out front to Curtis, who tapped in the backhand at 16:20.

Lakusta put the finishing touches on the win, scoring on his own rebound less than a minute after Curtis’ goal. Lakusta took a drop pass from Vladislav Mikhalchuk, moving into the slot. His first shot was kicked out by the goalie but Lakusta quickly buried the rebound at 17:14.

Final Score: 6-2 Cougars

Shots: 34-24 Cougars

Power-Plays: Cougars 1-4 Vancouver 1-5

Three Stars: 1) Brogan O’Brien 2) Taylor Gauthier 3) Brad Morrison

Prince George (10-14-2-2) looks to string together back-to-back wins on Tuesday, when they host the Kootenay ICE (12-15-1-0) at the CN Centre. Tickets are available at the TicketsNorth box office at the CN Centre, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca

-Cougars

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