It was a battle for playoff positioning, as coming into Friday’s game, the Cougars trailed the T-Birds by just one point, as both teams are chasing the Kamloops Blazers for the final Wildcard spot in the West.
Prince George had a mini rally of their own in the second, to put themselves ahead 2-1 after 40-minutes, but Seattle came out and scored three unanswered goals in the first half of the final frame, and eventually held off a late Cougars comeback attempt.
Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Josh Maser scored early and late in the middle frame, as the Cougars turned a 1-0 first period deficit into a 2-1 lead through two. However, Seattle came out and got goals from Nolan Volcan, Austin Strand and Donovan Neuls to go up 4-2 in the final 20-minutes.
Aaron Boyd did pull the Cougars within one with less than two-minutes left, as he scored on a six-on-five, but Seattle iced it with an empty-net goal inside the final minute.
Tavin Grant was tagged with the loss, as he made 26 saves on 30 shots. Matt Berlin picked up his second win against the Cougars this season, stopping 34 of 37 shots.
Despite a strong start, the Cougars fell behind just past the midway mark of the first period. Off a face-off, Reece Harsh blasted a one-timer from the blue-line past Grant at 11:26.
Joel Lakusta had the Cougars’ best chance to score in the first, as he faked his shot, dancing around a sprawled Seattle forward, before firing a shot that just nicked off Berlin’s shoulder.
It was a feisty game and emotions boiled over late in the first, as Pavel Azhgirei got mixed up with Tyson Terretta. The surprising and willing combatants got into a scrap and the Linesmen quickly jumped in, after the sweater came over the top of Terretta. The two just had four penalty-minutes between them before their bout.
Prince George used that bout to spark them in the second, as they scored twice to grab their first lead of the game. First, Mikhalchuk tied it, just over four-minutes in as he capitalized on a poor Seattle line change. Ethan O’Rourke and Mikhalchuk went in two-on-oh from the Seattle blue-line, and Mikhalchuk finished off O’Rourke’s cross-ice pass at 4:28. Josh Maser also drew an assist on Mikhalchuk’s ninth goal of the season.
The Cougars went ahead for the first time in the game, in the final minutes of the second. With less than two-minutes to go in the period, Maser came down the left-wing and squeezed his shot off the post and just past Berlin from the circle at 18:35; Maser scoring his seventh goal in as many games.
Seattle had just won one of their previous 12 games when trailing going into the third period, but they didn’t look like that team Friday.
Nolan Volcan tied the game 2-2 early in the third, curling off the wall and beating Grant up high from the slot at 1:40. Then, Seattle was handed a power-play midway through the frame and they capitalized to go back ahead. Austin Strand fired from the face-off circle and forced his shot through Grant’s arm on the blocker-side at 9:46 to make it 3-2 T-Birds; Strand scoring his team-leading 10th power-play goal.
Donovan Neuls padded the T-Birds lead with five-minutes left, as he finished off an extended shift in the Cougars zone, by one-timing a feed from out behind the net. Zach Andrusiak dished it out to Neuls and he quickly got it by Grant at 14:51.
Prince George dug their heels in and pushed back, as Aaron Boyd closed the gap back down to one, scoring to make it 4-3 late. With Grant once again the bench for the extra-attacker, Dennis Cholowski chipped the puck over to Boyd, and from in front of the net, he had his shot go off a stick and up and over a fallen Berlin; Boyd scoring with just a minute and a half left on the clock.
The Cougars tried for the equalizer but a turnover at the Seattle blue-line, allowed the Thunderbirds to go back the other way on a two-on-oh, with an empty-net in front of the them. Zach Andrusiak sealed it with the empty-netter with just 35-seconds left on the clock.
Final Score: 5-3 Seattle
Shots: 37-31 Cougars
Power-Plays: Cougars 0-3 Seattle 1-3
Three Stars: 1) Nolan Volcan 2) Turner Ottenbreit 3) Aaron Boyd
Prince George (12-15-3-2) looks for their first win of the road trip Saturday, as they’re in Everett to face the Silvertips at 7:05; Everett lost 5-2 in Spokane Friday. It’s the fourth and final meeting between the Cougars and Silvertips in the regular season. Fans can listen to the game on 94.3 The GOAT, or they can watch online via WHL Live.
-Prince George Cougars