The Prince George Cougars had to settle for a weekend split with the Tri-City Americans after a 3-2 loss Saturday at the CN Centre.
Tri-City’s Marc Lajoie broke a 2-2 tie late in regulation with a power-play goal with just four-minutes left on the clock. Special teams was the storyline on Saturday, as the Americans scored all three of their goals on the man-advantage and they ended their eight-game losing streak. Luke Zazula and Booker Daniel also scored power-play goals in the victory.
Jonny Hooker and Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored in a losing effort for Prince George, who failed to keep pace with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Wildcard playoff chase.
It was a battle of 16-year-old goaltenders, as the Americans’ Mason Dunsford earned his first WHL win and first star honours with a 37-save performance. The Cougars’ Tyler Brennan was tagged with the loss, after surrendering three goals on 24 shots.
It was another busy first period for Prince George, as they peppered the American’s net with 14 shots but found themselves trailing 1-0 after 20-minutes. Zazula scored the only goal of the opening frame, on a 5-on-3 power-play, after he picked the corner from the slot at 12:25.
Early in the second period, the Cougars pushed back and got an equalizer from Jonny Hooker. Ilijah Colina fired a pass out front to Hooker who scored his 12thof the year just 1:15 into the middle frame. Prince George didn’t stop there, as they grabbed their first lead of the game midway through the second.
Once again it was Colina being the playmaker, as he picked up the puck on the wall, cut down to the goal-line and then found Mikhalchuk camped out at the far post for the tap in at 10:59; Mikhalchuk’s fifth and second in two games.
Prince George couldn’t take the lead into the intermission, as the Americans mustered up an equalizer in the dying seconds and on the powerplay. Cariboo Cougar alum and Vanderhoof product Booker Daniel scored with just one second left on the clock as he tipped Jayden Platz’s point shot past Tyler Brennan.
A night ago, the Cougars scored a season-high four third period goals but Saturday they were shutout in the final 20-minutes. Tri-City scored the game winner at 15:57 on their fifth power-play of the night. From the middle of the blue-line Marc Lajoie fired a wrist-shot that eluded traffic and snuck past Brennan at 15:57.
Prince George pulled their goalie in the final moments of regulation and were inches away from tying the game, but Maser had his attempt clank off the base of the post.
Game Notes: Saturday was the first time since December 8th in Portland the Cougars have allowed two or more power-play goals against. With Seattle’s shootout win in Portland Saturday, the Cougars fall ten points back of the Thunderbirds for the final playoff spot in the West. Prior to the game, Jack Sander was named the Jim’s Clothes Closet Player of the Month for January. The Cougars record fell to 5-9-1-0 against the U.S. Division this season. For Tri-City, Saturday was their first road win since November 11th.
Next Up: The Cougars (14-26-3-4) will continue their homestand on Tuesday, and Wednesday against the Seattle Thunderbirds (20-22-3-2). Single game tickets start at just $13 per person, per game. Fans can get their tickets at the CN Centre box office, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca
Cougars – 0/4
Americans – 3/5
Cougars – 39
Americans – 24
Three Stars: 1) Mason Dunsford 2) Ilijah Colina 3) Jack Sander