The Prince George Cougars’ Josh Maser led the way with a hat-trick in the Cougars 5-4 win over the Vancouver Giants at the CN Centre on Friday night.
Maser’s third goal of the night broke a 4-4 tie with five minutes left in the third period, as the Cougars won their second straight game and moved within seven points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Maser’s three goals moved him up to 28 on the season, two away from matching his career high of 30 he set a season ago. Jonny Hooker (14) and Majid Kaddoura (5) also scored for Prince George. Taylor Gauthier stopped 38 of 42 shots as he earned his 15th win.
It was a back-and-forth game as the lead changed hands four times before Maser’s late game heroics. The Cougars led 1-0 early and were tied 1-1 through 20 minutes and 3-3 after two periods. Maser scored two of his three goals in the third period, including the game winner at 14:42.
Hooker put the Cougars ahead 1-0 just 1:30 into the game. Hooker took a pass from Ilijah Colina and wired a wrist-shot up underneath the cross bar. The puck ended up lodged in the top of the net causing some momentary confusion before the red light came on.
The Giants tied the game late in the first period, as Michal Kvasnica banged in a rebound with three minutes left in the frame. Then, the game took off in the second period.
The two teams combined for four goals in the middle frame, as each team scored twice. The Giants grabbed their first lead on the night near the five-minute mark. On the power-play, Bowen Byram picked the corner stick side to put the Giants ahead 2-1 at 4:43.
Prince George tied the game on a power-play goal from Maser midway through the middle stanza. After Cole Moberg made an excellent play to knock down a clearing attempt at the blue line, the puck came to Maser in front of the net and he whacked in his second of the game at 13:42 to tie it 2-2.
Vancouver responded quickly as Tyler Preziuso capitalized on a turnover in the Cougars’ zone just 1:16 after Maser’s goal to put the Giants back up, this time 3-2. However, that Giants lead lasted roughly only three minutes.
Just after a Cougars’ penalty expired, Majid Kaddoura rushed the puck up ice and broke into the Giants zone on the right wing, where he worked his way down to the goal line before his pass banked in off a Giants’ skate in the crease at 18:11 to make it 3-3. Kaddoura’s fifth goal this season came in his 100th career regular season game.
Prince George went ahead for the second time in the game in the opening moments of the third period. Jack Sander had his point-shot stopped but it was Maser who quickly put the rebound over the Giants’ Trent Miner 56-seconds into the third. Maser’s second of the game and 27th of the season put the Cougars up 4-3.
The Giants answered and it was Preziuso who scored his second of the night on another Vancouver power play. At the side of the net, Preziuso spun and fired upstairs over Gauthier’s shoulder, tying the game 4-4. However, the Cougars captain was not to be outdone.
Prince George went ahead for good on another power-play goal, this time moments after Vancouver had tied it. Maser scored his hat-trick goal like many of his others over his career: from right in front the net. Moberg teed up the puck from the blue line but his shot was blocked near the top of the crease. Maser was there to knock the rebound underneath the Giant’s netminder who was sprawled out in the crease. Maser’s 28th of the season and the game winner.
One of Taylor Gauthier’s best saves of his 42 on Friday came with the clock ticking down. With the Giants’ net empty, it was Byram who got a clean look at the goal, but his shot was kicked out by the quick reflexes of Gauthier.
Game Notes: Josh Maser scores his first hat-trick of the season, and his second of his career. Both of his hat-tricks have come at home and against the Giants. Maser now has 46 points which is three back of matching his career high of 49 set in the 2017-2018 season. The Cougars home record improved to 12-17-2-2 and they improved their record to 3-4-0-0 against the Giants this season.
Next Up: The Cougars (19-34-4-4) play their last regular season home game on Fan Appreciation night tomorrow, March 7th, against the Vancouver Giants; the puck drops at 7:00 pm. Tickets start at just $13 and are available at the TicketsNorth box office at the CN Centre, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca
Cougars – 2/3
Giants – 2/4
Cougars – 20
Giants – 42
Three Stars: 1) Josh Maser 2) Bowen Byram 3) Cole Moberg