The Prince George Cougars bear-ed down and earned a 3-2 win over the first place Kamloops Blazers on Teddy & Toque Toss night at the CN Centre, Saturday.
Goaltender Taylor Gauthier gave his team more than the “bear” essentials in net, as the 20-year-old stopped 48 of 50 shots and was the obvious choice for the first star of the game.
Ethan Samson triggered the Teddy Bear Toss four minutes into the game and finished with a pair of goals. Riley Heidt also scored for the Cougars, who have now won by back-to-back 3-2 margins.
Matthew Seminoff and Reese Belton scored for the Blazers but Gauthier frustrated Kamloops shooters all night. Kamloops has now lost two in a row and four of their last five.
It didn’t take long for the fur to fly at the CN Centre, as Samson scored on the Cougars’ fourth shot of the game at 4:07 of the first period. It was Samson’s third of the season, as his wrist shot had eluded traffic out front and scooted past Blazers’ netminder Dylan Ernst.
Kamloops tied it on Seminoff goal at 10:19 of the opening frame, as he jammed the puck across the line before Gauthier could get his pad across. It was 1-1 after 20 minutes despite the visitors outshooting the Cougars 17-8 in the opening frame.
One of Gauthier’s best saves came in the second period. Right off a face off in the Cougars’ end, the Blazers Daylan Kuefler cut across the crease and tried to tuck the puck in on the far side, but Gauthier lunged across and somehow got his glove to the puck as he bellyflopped in his crease.
It remained deadlocked 1-1 up until the opening minutes of the third period. Heidt put the Cougars back ahead three and half minutes into the period. His shot took a deflection off a defender and fluttered up and over Ernst to make it 2-1 at 3:28. Heidt’s first goal since November 5th.
The Blazers answered back almost immediately. Belton tied it at 2-2 after he buried a pass out from behind net from Tye Spencer just 31 seconds after Heidt’s goal.
Prince George went ahead, again, two minutes after Belton’s goal, as Samson sent the sellout crowd of nearly 3,000 fans into a frenzy. Samson scored his second of the game just past the six-minute mark, as he scored on a blast from the blue line at 6:09; his fourth goal made it 3-2.
Kamloops almost responded quickly again, as eight seconds after Samson scored, Kuefler was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a partial break. On the penalty shot, Kuefler tried to out wait the Cougars’ goaltender, but Gauthier sprawled out his pad and made the save to preserve the 3-2 lead.
The Blazers peppered Gauthier with another 19 shots in the third period but the veteran netminder stood stall right until the final buzzer.
Game Notes: Before the game the Cougars called up 17-year-old goaltender Ty Young from the Calgary Canucks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Goaltender Tyler Brennan is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Saturday was Samson’s first multi-goal game in his WHL career. He has already set career highs in goals (4) and points (15).
Next Game: Tuesday, Dec 14 vs. Vancouver Giants, 7 p.m.