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Special teams the difference in series opening loss to Portland

Pat Kempany photo

The Prince George Cougars dropped their series opener to the Portland Winterhawks 5-2, Friday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

The Winterhawks now lead the best-of-seven series 1-0, with game two set for Saturday, April 23, at 6 p.m.

Special teams played a key role in game one, as the Winterhawks scored three times on five power plays, including twice in the first period. Portland got out to fast start, as they scored three goals in the first nine minutes of the game.

“There was certainly a lot of good takeaways. I liked our play five-on-five, our compete level, and our structure,” said associate coach Josh Dixon. “First and foremost, the penalties were the difference. The penalties we took tonight are ones we need to avoid. We talked about how dangerous Portland was on the power play heading into the series. We can’t be giving them that many opportunities.”

Aiden Litke, James Stefan, and Cross Hanas scored in just under a seven-minute span to put Portland up 3-0 in the opening period. Litke and Stefan scored on the Winterhawks’ first two power plays. Gabe Klassen scored in the second and Jack O’Brien added an empty net goal.

Former Cougar Taylor Gauthier stopped 32 of 34 shots in the Portland crease and was named the game’s first star.

Ty Young started for Prince George but was replaced by Tyler Brennan after surrendering three goals on 13 shots. Brennan stopped 23 of 24 in 50 minutes of work.

Connor Bowie and Riley Heidt scored their first career playoff goals, as the Cougars played their first playoff game since 2017. Bowie scored on the power play six-minutes into the second to make it 3-1.

Heidt made it a two-goal game in the third period when he pounced on a rebound to make it 4-2 at 4:44. 

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