The Prince George Cougars were 40-seconds away from a bounce-back win but ended up settling for a point, in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Saskatoon Blades, Saturday at the SaskTel Centre.
It was a back-and-forth contest, with plenty of excitement through regulation and into overtime, as the Cougars picked up a point in their second game, of their six-game East Division road trip.
Joel Lakusta, Ilijah Colina and Ryan Schoettler scored in regulation for the Cougars, and Isaiah DiLaura was terrific in a losing effort, as he was named the game’s second star after his 35-save performance.
Prince George trailed 1-0 after the first period, as Saskatoon’s Josh Paterson scored the only goal in the first, tipping in a point-shot at 11:39.
There was some bad blood early in that first period, as Josh Maser and Evan Fiala squared up and exchanged some heavy blows, before Maser scored the take down. That scrap seemed to spark the Cougars in the second period.
Down a goal in the middle frame, the Cougars ramped it up and outshot the Blades 14-7 and eventually equalized late. Brogan O’Brien dropped the puck back to Lakusta at the top of the face-off circle, and he fired a wrist-shot off of Tyler Brown’s block and in at 18:18; Lakusta picking up his sixth goal.
There was more bad blood before that equalizer, as Austin Crossley tossed the knuckles with Saskatoon’s Caleb Fantillo. Crossley landed several blows before the linesmen jumped in. Crossley however, was assessed 17-minutes in penalties after losing his jersey in the dust up.
The Cougars carried that momentum from the second into the third period and grabbed their first lead of the game inside the first minute. Colina picked up the puck at his own blue-line, sped down the left-wing, and finished off the rush with a spin-o-rama goal from the face-off circle, slipping his backhand through the Blades’ netminder; his fifth making it 2-1 Cougars 53-seconds into the third.
The Blades battled back and tied it on a power-play midway through the period. Braylon Shmyr found a rebound at the top of the crease and roofed it over a prone DiLaura at 6:50 to tie it 2-2. Prince George then used the power-play to get their lead back.
Late in the third, after the Blades’ defenceman Jake Kustra was called for a delay of game penalty, it was Ryan Schoettler handing the Cougars the lead back with just under six-minutes left. From the blue-line, Schoettler moved to the middle and threaded his wrist-shot through traffic in front and past Brown’s glove at 14:05; his first goal since December 12th making it 3-2.
Saskatoon thought they had tied it with just 56-seconds left in the game. With their net empty, the Blades’ Evan Fiala fired a shot from up top that was tipped down by Caleb Fantillo and past DiLaura. However, after a video review, it was confirmed that Fantillo contacted the puck illegally and the goal was disallowed. The Blades did draw a penalty on that sequence and didn’t let the opportunity go to waste.
With the Cougars down a skater, the Blades power-play came through in crunch time, as Max Gerlach tied it 3-3 with just 40-seconds left in regulation. On a six-on-four power-play sequence, the puck skipped over to Gerlach at the side of the net, and he jammed it in by the post at 19:20; that goal sending the game to overtime.
It was a wildly entertaining three-on-three overtime period, with both teams trading grade ‘A’ scoring chances but both goalies were up to the task. DiLaura stopped all six shots he faced in OT, including a breakaway save off of Kirby Dach, and an eye-popping pad-stick save on Kustra at the side of the net.
Prince George got the last kick at the can in OT with a power-play with just 23-seconds left, but they couldn’t manufacture a game-winner.
Sixty-five minutes wasn’t enough, and the teams needed a shootout to decide things Saturday.
Dach gave the Blades an early advantage, scoring in the first round but Colina evened it up with a backhand deke in the second round of the shootout. It took until the sixth-round to break the deadlock and determine a winner, as Josh Paterson scored to give the Blades a 2-1 advantage. Needing to score to extend the shootout to a seventh-round, Josh Maser had his five-hole attacked kicked-out by Brown to seal the come-from-behind win for Saskatoon.
FINAL SCORE: 4-3 Blades (SO)
Shots: 39-38 Cougars
Power-Plays: Cougars 1/4 Blades 2/4
Three Stars: 1) Tyler Brown 2) Isaiah DiLaura 3) Josh Paterson
The Cougars (18-24-4-4) have two days off, before resuming their road trip Tuesday in Swift Current against the high-flying Broncos. Swift Current beat Regina 3-1 Saturday afternoon. That game also marks the first encounter with former Cougar defenceman Josh Anderson, who was traded to Swift Current before the WHL Trade Deadline. Fans can listen to the game on 94.3 The GOAT, or they can watch online, via WHL Live.
-Prince George Cougars