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Cougars nab an overtime win against Giants

In a game that had the improbable, the Prince George Cougars did what was thought impossible. The Cougars scored a wild and dramatic 7-6 overtime win over the Vancouver Giants on the road Saturday, at the Langley Events Centre.

The Cougars had a big lead early, were on the wrong side of a dramatic comeback, tied it at the buzzer and then won in the dying moments of overtime; Saturday’s game had it all.

Captain Dennis Cholowski, playing in his hometown, had two goals and four points and forced OT after scoring, short-handed, with just three-tenths of a second left on the clock. Not to be outdone, Kody McDonald recorded a hat-trick, including scoring the OT-winner with just 12-seconds left in the extra frame. Josh Curtis and Max Kryski also scored for the Cougars and Isaiah DiLaura recorded his first WHL win, stopping 41 of 46 shots.

The Giants made a valiant comeback to snag a point in the OT loss. Down 4-0 not even seven-minutes into the game, Vancouver stormed back to take a 6-5 lead at one point in the third, before the Cougars tied it. Ty Ronning also recorded a hat-trick and Bowen Byram, Jared Dmytriw and James Malm all for Vancouver. Todd Scott was tagged with the loss, saving 32 of 39 shots.

It was the Cougars second win in three games and the Giants second straight home loss coming out of the Christmas break. Prince George also picked up their third win in five trys against Vancouver, and it was also their first overtime win this season.

The Cougars came out like gangbusters, as Cholowski opened the scoring less than two-minutes in. Cholowski scored from near the goal-line, after a great rush and cross-ice pass by Joel Lakusta at 1:50. 59-seconds later, Max Kryski got involved.

On a very similar play to their first goal, the Cougars’ Kryski squeezed his shot, from the circle, through the arm of Scott at 1:49. They didn’t stop there, as Josh Curtis made it 3-0 not even five-minutes later. Curtis was the recipient of a cross-ice pass from Cholowski, as he scored the tap-in from inside the crease at 5:44. The Cougars kept coming.

Kody McDonald scored his first of three, just over a minute after Curtis made it 3-0. Nic Holowko came down the left-wing and spotted McDonald with a pass across to the far-post, and he shoveled it in at 6:46. The Cougars scoring four goals in just under five-minutes.

Vancouver started to chip away at the Cougars lead midway through the first. James Malm scored on a Giants five-on-three power-play at 9:24 to make it 4-1. Then, Ty Ronning got his first of three, scoring on a wraparound just past the 14-minute mark making it 4-2.

Early in the second, McDonald put the Cougars back up by three, scoring his second of the night three and a half minutes in. Holowko was stopped out front but Scott couldn’t cover the rebound, and McDonald banked the puck off of Alex Kannok-Leipert’s stick and in. However, despite being down 5-2, the Giants didn’t fold and started to mount their comeback in the back half of the second.

Ronning scored twice in a five-minute stretch to shrink Prince George’s lead down to just one goal after 40-minutes. Ronning made it 5-3 at 12:36, after Kannok-Leipert threaded the needle on a cross ice pass to the crease. Ronning then made it a one-goal game, with just over two-minutes left in the frame, redirecting a pass from the point through DiLaura’s pads.

Vancouver kept coming in the third and completed the comeback bid. 16-year-old defenceman Bowen Byram tied it up just past the three-minute mark. Byram took a drop pass and from the right-wing, through the puck to the net, that ended up hitting a Cougars’ defenceman and rolling in past DiLaura; the Giants tying the game three-minutes into the third.

Jared Dmytriw then grabbed the Giants their first lead, lunging out and tipping Brayden Watts’ pass from the left-wing, up and over DiLaura at 6:45. Down 4-0 seven-minutes into the first, the Giants led 6-5 nearly seven-minutes into the third.

It was the Cougars turn to put the rally caps on late, as Cholowski tied the game on last gasp effort at the buzzer. With a man in the penalty box, the Cougars pulled DiLaura to make it a five-on-five.

After the Giants were called for icing, Prince George had a last gasp chance in the Vancouver end with just over three-seconds left. Jared Bethune pushed the puck towards the net, and it skipped to Cholowski who snuck his shot through Scott’s leg with just three-tenths of a second left on the clock.

Prince George killed-off the remaining 19-seconds of the penalty when it carried over to overtime. Then, they drew a penalty with just over two-minutes left in OT. With just 12-seconds left in overtime, and a shootout looming, McDonald curled to the top of the zone from the left-wing, and as he did, fired his wrist-shot over Scott’s arm for the hat-trick goal.

FINAL SCORE: 7-6 Cougars

Shots: 47-39 Vancouver

Power-Plays: Cougars 1-3 Vancouver 1-5

Three Stars: 1) Ty Ronning 2) Dennis Cholowski 3) Tyler Benson

Saturday, the Cougars picked up their first overtime win (1-3) in four tries and it was DiLaura’s first career win in just his third start (1-1-0-1). The Cougars seven goals matches a season high set October 10th against Calgary. Saturday, was McDonald’s third career three-goal game and his second hat-trick this season; he scored three against Calgary on October 10th.

The two teams are off Sunday, before concluding the doubleheader on New Year’s Day at 2 pm. Fans can listen to the game on 94.3 The GOAT, or they can watch online via WHL Live.

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