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Valimaki’s hat trick leads Americans past Cougars

The Tri-City Americans looked good in pink. Skating on pink ice and wearing specialty breast cancer awareness jerseys, the Americans took down the Prince George Cougars 6-1 Saturday night.

It was a big first period for the home team, as they score five goals in the opening 20-minutes to put the Cougars back on their heels. Defenceman Jusso Välimäki scored twice in the first period and finished with a hat-trick, as the Americans won their third-straight. Jordan Topping and Parker AuCoin also scored in the opening frame; Valimaki picked up his hat-trick in the second period.

Ryan Schoettler scored the lone Cougars goal late in the second period, as Prince George dropped their third in a row. Isaiah DiLaura started the game, but was replaced by Tavin Grant to start the second, after surrendering five goals on 14 shots. Grant stopped 15 of 16 shots over the final 40-minutes.

The Americans leading scorer got the ball rolling for the home team, as Topping broke the scoreless deadlock four-minutes in. The puck came out to Topping in the slot and he quickly put a wrist-shot past DiLaura at 4:11.

40-seconds later it was 2-0 Americans, as Calgary Flames first-round draft pick Jusso Välimäki blasted a shot from the blue-line, that got through everyone out front, before finding the corner.

Less than two-minutes after Välimäki’s goal, Paycen Bjorklund increased the home team’s lead. After Anthony Bishop missed his shot from the blue-line, the puck bounced back out to the opposite side of the net, where Bjorklund banked it in off of DiLaura’s pad at 6:45.

Prince George then called a timeout to try and settle things down, after the Americans struck for three goals in two and a half minutes.

Välimäki was at it again later in the first, scoring his second of the period at 11:41 to make it 4-0. The Finish defenceman came down from the blue-line, cutting to the net from the right-wing, before chipping the puck over DiLaura’s shoulder.

Parker AuCoin finished off the first period surge, sneaking a shot underneath DiLaura from the left-wing circle with just 40-seconds left to make it 5-0 Americans.

Things picked up midway through the second period, as Välimäki got his hat-trick at 10:18, making it 6-0, but that also sparked skirmish near the Cougars’ bench. Off the rush, Isaac Johnson centered to Välimäki, and he wired a wrist-shot over Tavin Grant’s shoulder.

After the goal, the two teams ended up engaging in a scrum down near the Americans’ blue-line, which resulted in five penalties being handed out to the two teams. The bad blood didn’t end there.

Just 12-seconds after Välimäki scored, Maxwell James stepped up and caught Ryan Schoettler with an open ice hit in the neutral zone. Austin Crossley immediately stepped in, dropping the gloves with James, as the two sorted matters out the old-fashioned way. Schoettler showed he was no worse for wear late in the second.

With less than three-minutes left in the middle frame, the Cougars broke the goose-egg, as Schoettler had his point-shot find its way in past Beck Warm in the Americans’ net. Schoettler picking up his sixth of the season at 17:42 to make it 6-1.

The third period was much more uneventful than the first 40-minutes, as the two teams held each other scoreless on just 12 combined shots.

FINAL SCORE: 6-1 Americans

Shots: 30-20 Americans

Power-Plays: Cougars 0-3 Americans 0-3

Three Stars: 1) Jusso Välimäki 2) Beck Warm 3) Anthony Bishop

The Cougars (20-33-4-4) finished their four-game road trip with a 1-3-0-0 record. The two teams split the four-game season series, with the Cougars going 2-1-0-1 against the Americans.

Prince George returns home Tuesday, February 27, against the Kelowna Rockets, for the start of a midweek doubleheader. It’s also the start of a six-game home stand for the Cougars, who also face the Victoria Royals and Portland Winterhawks over the course of nine days.

-Prince George Cougars


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