Skyler McKenzie’s hat-trick and four-point paced the Winterhawks, who won their fourth in a row. Keiffer Bellows, Lane Gilliss, Henri Jokiharju and Lucas MacKenzie also scored for Portland. Cole Kehler turned aside 18 of 19 shots in the Winterhawks crease.
Connor Bowie scored his first WHL goal in the first period for the Cougars, as he was set up by Reid Perepeluk, who picked up his first WHL point. Taylor Gauthier stopped 25 of 31 shots before being replaced by Isaiah DiLaura in the third period. DiLaura stopped 21 of 22 shots in the final 16-minutes.
The Cougars split their six-game home stand, as they now head out on the road for a doubleheader against Victoria starting Friday, then stops in Kelowna and Kamloops, before returning home for the season finale on March 17th.
Prince George got out to a terrific start, as Bowie’s first WHL goal opened up the scoring not even three-minutes in. Perepeluk stripped the defenceman of the puck along the wall, before throwing a cross-ice pass to Bowie from the goal-line, who banged in the milestone goal at 2:32.
The Winterhawks tied it on a wicked shot from Jokiharju, as hammered the puck up, underneath the cross-bar that sent the water bottle flying. Jokiharju’s ninth tying it 1-1 at 8:30.
Portland didn’t score again until midway through the second, when McKenzie picked up his second goal of the game. On the power-play, McKenzie broke down the left-wing and his shot from snuck underneath the pad of Gauthier on the near side; McKenzie scoring 13:36 to make it 2-1.
McKenzie and Glass teamed up once again for a goal but this time short-handed, as they counter-attacked after a Cougars turnover. Glass once again setting up McKenzie, who finished off the cross-ice pass to make it 3-1 at 13:36.
Lucas MacKenzie made it 4-1 in the dying moments of second period- literally. With less than a second left on the clock, MacKenzie put the puck between his legs and fired it over a fallen Gauthier at 19:59. MacKenzie was originally stopped on the breakaway but quickly gathered the puck back and scored his second of the season in highlight reel fashion.
Portland kept pushing in the third period, as Lane Gilliss made it 5-1 not even three-minutes in. Gilliss tracked the bouncing puck off the glass behind the goal, and watched it bounce back out to him in the crease, where he shoveled it in at 2:42.
Keiffer Bellows, one of four first-round NHL draft picks on the Winterhawks roster, made it 6-1 just over a minute later. The New York Islanders property, took a cross-ice pass from Glass and ripped the puck past a sliding Gauthier. The goal precipitating the goalie change, as Isaiah DiLaura in for Gauthier after that sixth Winterhawks’ goal.
McKenzie completed the hat-trick in the third period, redirecting a cross-crease pass intentionally off his own skate and in; McKenzie scoring his 45th with three and a half minutes left in the period.
FINAL SCORE: 7-1 Winterhawks
Shots: 53-19 Winterhawks
Power-Plays: Winterhawks 1-5 Cougars 0-1
Three Stars: 1) Skyler McKenzie 2) Cody Glass 3) Connor Bowie
Prince George (23-36-4-4) embarks on a four-game road trip starting Friday against the Victoria Royals (37-25-4-2), in a weekend doubleheader. The Cougars also visit the Kelowna Rockets (38-22-5-2) and Kamloops Blazers (29-33-1-4), before returning home to face the Blazers in their season finale on March 17th. Every game, home and away, can be heard on 93.4 The GOAT, or fans can watch on WHL Live.
-Prince George Cougars