BY FRASER RODGERS
Prince George Cougars
The Prince George Cougars ended their eight-game winless streak on Friday, knocking off the Western Conference leading Kamloops Blazers 4-3 at the CN Centre.
Connor Bowie scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period, as the Cougars picked up a long overdue win against the Blazers. Josh Maser and Rhett Rhinehart also scored in the first period, as the Cougars led 3-2 after 20-minutes. Taylor Gauthier was the stellar again against the Blazers, as he stopped 41 of 44 shots for his third win. He was named the game’s first star.
Friday’s win not only ended the Cougars’ eight-game losing streak, but it put to an end their 11-game home losing streak to the Blazers, which dated back to March 18, 2017.
Zane Franklin scored twice for Kamloops and Orrin Centazzo had the other. Rayce Ramsay started in net but was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period. Dylan Garand replaced Ramsay at the start of the second period and stopped eight of nine over two periods.
Prince George got out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, as Maser and Bowie scored 33-seconds apart. First, Maser opened the scoring on a rebound during a Cougars’ power-play at 10:10. Then it was Bowie keeping the puck and scoring on a two-on-one rush on the shift after Maser’s goal.
Kamloops stormed back to tie the game 2-2 in the back half of the first, but it was Rhett Rhinehart providing late period magic with a great individual effort to put the Cougars back ahead 3-2. Rhinehart took the puck around the Blazers’ net after coming down from the blue-line and beat Ramsay on the far-side with just 33-seconds left in first to restore the Cougars’ lead.
The Blazers did tie the game again in the second, Zane Franklin has his pass go off a Cougars’ skate and over the goal line before a pile up in Gauthier’s crease. A quick video review confirmed the tying goal at 11:40. It remained tied 3-3 until the middle mark of the third period.
It was Bowie again, from nearly the same spot as he scored from in the first, scoring the game-winner in the third. The Fort St. John, BC product kept the puck, again, on an odd-man rush and fired the game-winner past the stick-side of Garand at 9:22.
Prince George was tested late, as Kamloops was awarded a four-minute power-play with five and half minutes left in regulation. The penalty-kill was excellent on Friday, keeping the WHL’s second-best power-play off the scoresheet.
Game Notes: Friday was the Cougars’ first home win since October 18th, snapping a seven-game skid. Bowie’s two goals was his first multi-goal game in his WHL career. In two games against Kamloops, Gauthier has combined to stop 84 of 88 shots. Prince George’s power-play goal was their first in six games, snapping an 0-15 run.
Next Up: The Cougars (5-16-0-2) look for the weekend sweep against the Blazers (15-8-0-0) on 90’s Night tomorrow, sponsored by Home Depot. Single game tickets start at just $13. Tickets are available at the Treasure Cove Casino box office at the CN Centre, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca
Cougars [1-0] Josh Maser (9). Assists: Cole Moberg, Ethan Browne 10:10 POWER-PLAY
Cougars [2-0] Connor Bowie (3). Assists: Filip Koffer, Jack Sander 10:43
Blazers [2-1] Orrin Centazzo (13). Assists: Zane Franklin, Connor Zary 13:21
Blazers [2-2] Zane Franklin (14). Assists: Inaki Baragano, Ryan Hughes 18:41
Cougars [3-2] Rhett Rhinehart (2). Assists: Jack Sander, Ilijah Colina 19:27
Blazers [3-3] Zane Franklin (15). Assists: Orrin Centazzo 11:40
Cougars [4-3] Connor Bowie (4). Assists: Ryan Schoettler 9:22
Blazers – 0/6
Three Stars: 1) Taylor Gauthier 2) Connor Bowie 3) Zane Franklin