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Blazers blank Cougars 3-0

The Prince George Cougars will look for the weekend split tomorrow in the rematch with the Kamloops Blazers after a 3-0 shutout loss Friday at the CN Centre.

Kamloops’ Josh Pillar scored twice, including  the game winner, and Dylan Garand stopped all 27 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season. Caeden Bankier scored into an empty net to cap off the scoring for the visitors. Friday was the Blazers’ ninth-straight win and their third consecutive shutout.

Taylor Gauthier was a bright spot in net for the Cougars as he made 40 saves and was named the game’s third star. Friday was the second time in the last three games the Cougars have been held off the scoresheet.

The Cougars’ record against the division leading Blazers falls to 2-2-0-0; both wins coming at home in November. The Blazers improved to 31-11-2-1 with the win, while the Cougars’ record dropped to 12-25-3-4.

Special teams was the main storyline, as the Cougars had a five-minute power-play and five-on-three man-advantage in the first period when trailing 1-0 but failed to capitalize. They mustered just one shot on the two opportunities. Prince George finished 0-2 on the power-play and Kamloops was 0-1.

After a tight-checking opening five minutes in the first period, Josh Maser, playing in his 200th career regular season game, had a chance to open the scoring but was denied on a breakaway. Not long after that opportunity Pillar put the Blazers ahead, after he fired a bullet underneath the crossbar for his ninth of the season at 9:09.

The Cougars had their chances following the Blazer’s opening goal. Midway through the first, Kamloops forward Connor Zary collided with Taylor Gauthier, which resulted in a five-minute major penalty for goaltender interference as well as a game misconduct. Exactly three minutes into the major penalty the Blazers were called on another goaltender interference penalty,  which handed the Cougars a full two-minute two-man advantage. The Cougars were able to generate little on the extended power-play sequence and went into the intermission trailing 1-0.

The second period was scoreless, but not one without chances. Taylor Gauthier made a handful of timely saves, most notably with his glove. Bankier tried to sweep a rebound across the goal line from inside the crease, but Gauthier reached back with his arm and denied the Blazers’ forward. He also cleared a dribbling puck off the goal line in the dying seconds of the middle frame to keep it a one-goal game.

Prince George’s best chance in the middle stanza came off the stick of Majid Kaddoura but he struck the crossbar on a wrist shot from the blue line. The Blazers took their one-goal lead into the third period.

Kamloops picked up an insurance marker five-minutes into final frame. Pillar pounced on a rebound in the crease and shoveled it into an open net for his second of the game. Bankier got a measure of revenge, as floated the puck into the empty net from the neutral zone with 3:15 left on the clock to seal the win for the Blazers.

Game Notes: Friday marked the seventh time this season that the Cougars have been shut out Their home record slipped to 6-12-1-2 with the loss. Defenceman Ryan Schoettler (injured) and forwards Blake Eastman (illness) and Davin Griffin did not play. Forward Nikita Krivokrasov left in the third period (lower-body) and did not return.

Next Up: The Cougars (12-25-3-4) get another crack at Kamloops tomorrow night on Treasure Cove Casino “Vegas Night.” The feature game includes a live wedding in the first intermission at ice level. There’s also a bonus 50/50 draw, a Champions of Magic performance, an Elvis Impersonator, and one fan will win a trip for two to Las Vegas. Fans can get their tickets at the CN Centre box office, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca

Boxscore

Power-Play

Cougars – 0/2

Blazers – 0/1

Shots

Cougars – 27

Blazers – 43

Three Stars: 1) Dylan Garand 2) Josh Pillar 3) Taylor Gauthier

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