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Gauthier, Upper lead Cougars to weekend split with Blazers

The Prince George Cougars earned a weekend split after knocking off the B.C. Division leading Kamloops Blazers 3-1 Saturday night at the CN Centre.

Tyson Upper broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period, converting on a breakaway less than two-minutes into the period, which stood up for the game winner. Josh Maser added an empty-net goal in the dying seconds. Jonny Hooker scored the Cougars’ other goal in the second period. It was the Cougars third win in five games against the Blazers.

The star of Saturday night was Taylor Gauthier who stopped 37 of 38 shots for his ninth win and was named the game’s first star. Gauthier stopped 77 of 80 shots over the two games against Kamloops this weekend.

Caeden Bankier scored the Blazers’ only goal, late in the second period, as Kamloops had their nine-game win streak snapped. Rayce Ramsay was the losing goaltender, kicking out 15 of 16 shots.

The Cougars ended Kamloops’ shutout streak at 234 minutes. Saturday was their first loss in January and first road loss since December 10th.

After a scoreless first period, Jonny Hooker opened the scoring four-minutes into the second period. Hooker had his shot from the slot ramp off a Blazers’ stick and flutter over Ramsay and into the net. His 11th and third in Cougars’ colours coming at 3:57.

The Cougars led 1-0 late into the second period before Bankier tied it. After the puck was turned over just inside the Cougars’ blue-line, Bankier took a pass from Kyrell Sopotyk and fired over Gauthier’s glove at 16:58.

Prince George retook the lead in the opening moments of the final frame. Just after Prince George killed a penalty, Ethan Browne stepped out of the penalty box and spotted Tyson Upper with a breakaway pass at the Kamloops blue-line. Upper broke in alone and scored on the stick side at 1:26. Upper’s sixth and first in nine games proved to be the game winner.

The captain sealed the win with an empty-net goal with just four-seconds left on the clock. Gauthier was terrific and saved some of his best work for the third period where he stopped all 13 shots he faced.

Game Notes: Hooker’s second period goal was the first goal conceded by the Blazers since their 12-3 win on January 17. Maser’s goal was his first since January 11 in Saskatoon. With the win, the Cougars improved their home record to 7-12-1-2 and their record against the B.C. Division to 7-12-1-3. The Cougars are eight points back of a wildcard playoff spot in the Western Conference. Attendance was announced at 3,077.

Next Up: The Cougars (13-25-3-4) continue their six-game home stand next Friday, January 31 against the Tri-City Americans (14-25-4-1). It’s the Cougars’ WHL Suits Up to Promote Organ Donation Presented by RE/MAX night. Prince George will wear special baby blue Hockey Night in Canada themed jerseys that will be auctioned off. Proceeds will go to the local chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Tickets are available at the CN Centre box office, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca

Boxscore

Power-Play

Cougars – 0/2

Blazers – 0/4

 Shots

Cougars – 16

Blazers – 38

 Three Stars: 1) Taylor Gauthier 2) Tyson Upper 3) Jonny Hooker

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