The Prince George Cougars fell 2-1 in overtime to the defending WHL champions Prince Albert Raiders on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Mathew Culling scored the game-winner 3:34 into overtime for the Raiders who moved past Winnipeg into first place in the East Division with the victory. Ilya Usau scored their other goal, 13-seconds into the third period, and goaltender Max Paddock stopped 20 shots in his Raiders debut.
Jonny Hooker punctuated his Cougars debut with a third period power-play goal to help earn a point for the Cougars, who are now 0-0-1-1 in the first two games of their East Division road trip. Taylor Gauthier was the Cougars’ best player Friday, as he stopped 38 of 40 shots, including five of six shots in overtime. He was named the game’s second star.
It was a tight checking, defensive battle through two scoreless periods, before the two teams traded third periods goals. The Raiders finally broke the scoreless deadlock seconds into the third.
Off the opening face-off, Usau came down the right-wing and scored on a shot near the wall that snuck past Gauthier on the glove-side 13-seconds into the frame. For Usau, it was his 14th of the season.
That Raiders’ lead lasted less than two-minutes as the Cougars tied the game on the power-play. Jack Sander took the point-shot and it was Hooker reaching out and redirecting the puck past Paddock at 2:07. That goal was Hooker’s ninth and first in Cougars’ colours.
Despite the loss, the Cougars’ special teams were rock solid. The power-play went 1-1 and the penalty-kill was a perfect 4-4. In fact, the penalty-kill had to kill-off a Raiders’ power-play with 2:17 left in regulation and another in overtime.
Gauthier’s best work came during the Cougars’ penalty-kill in overtime. He robbed Kaiden Guhle of a game-winner with a sliding pad stop after a one-timer from the Raiders’ defenceman. He also snatched Evan Herman’s shot labeled for the top corner with a flashy glove save.
Game Notes: The Cougars have won just once in eight games that have gone to overtime or a shootout. Jonny Hooker now has two goals in the last three games with his third period tally. Jack Sander stretched his point streak to five games with his third period assist. He has six points (1-5-6) in those five games. Majid Kaddoura also made his Cougars debut on the blue-line Friday. Brendan Boyle played in his 100th career game Friday. Ethan Browne returned to the line up after missing the previous six games. Ilijah Colina (illness), Davin Griffin, and Keaton Dowhaniuk were scratched.
Next Up: The Cougars (10-22-3-4) continue their road trip tomorrow against the Saskatoon Blades (20-17-1-2) at 5:00 pm PT. Fans can listen to the game on 94-3 The GOAT, or they can watch the game at Brown’s Socialhouse in Prince George, and online at http://www.whl.neulion.com/
Raiders – 0/4
Three Stars: 1) Max Paddock 2) Taylor Gauthier 3) Matthew Culling