Hard work and a solid effort from the Prince George Cougars was rewarded with a victory.
The Cougars (7-7-1) earned a 3-2 shootout win to send the road-weary Brandon Wheat Kings (7-6-2-1) back to Manitoba on Saturday night in front of 1,806 spectators at CN Centre. The Wheat Kings were playing the final game of a two week, seven game swing through Western Hockey League cities in southern Alberta and British Columbia that saw them produce a 2-3-0-2 record.
We deserved to win the game with the way we played, said Cougars head coach Dean Clark. Im glad we did get it, regardless of whether it was a shootout or not, our guys needed to get rewarded for a good effort. On the [six-game] losing streak we played a couple of good games and didnt get rewarded.
Im liking the style of game were starting to play, he added. We have to be a little more opportunistic when it comes to the great chances that we have but its coming.
The Cougars outworked the Wheat Kings all night, outshooting the visitors 37-14 through two periods. Curtis Honey kept the Wheat Kings in the game with some tremendous saves. After dropping an 8-1 decision in Kamloops the night before the Wheat Kings found the strength to battle back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the third period, salvaging a point before embarking on the 20-hour bus trip home. The final shot tally was 49-28 in favour of the Cats.
Marc McNulty and Brett Roulston gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead with their third goals of the season. Both now have two-game goal scoring streaks. Colin Jacobs picked up assists on both goals.
The Cougars were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Wheat Kings went 1-for-4.
McNultys second period goal to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead came with the extra man, while Chad Robinson, acquired by Brandon in a trade with the Red Deer Rebels during the road trip, scored his second goal as a Wheat King to pull Brandon within one at 2-1. Former Cougar Nick Buonassisi picked up an assist on Robinsons power-play goal.
Clark referred to the hooking penalty taken by centre Alex Forsberg, while in the offensive zone, as a lazy penalty with less than seven minutes to play in a 2-0 game. Coincidentally, Forsberg wasnt one of the five shooters the Cougars sent out for the shootout. The Cougars were shorthanded for most of the first two minutes of overtime but managed to kept Brandon at bay.
Jordan Tkatch had a shorthanded breakaway in overtime but couldn't beat Honey and the Wheat Kings later rang the puck off the crossbar to send the game to the shootout.
Caleb Belter extended the skills competition and Zach Pochiro scored the goal that won the game. Mac Engel earned his first win as a Cougar - second of the season for the former Spokane Chief - coming up with the final save of the shootout when he denied Eric Roy. Jayce Hawryluk was the only shooter to beat Engel.
The shootout goal doesnt technically count in the stats column but when Belter scores the Cougars have yet to lose this season with a 4-0 regulation record. The 19-year-old right-winger said the team is starting to realize what they need to do to find success.
Everyones going and everyones pumped and were getting back to where we started which is awesome, said Belter.
The Cougars next game is Friday on the road against the red-hot Kamloops Blazers (14-0-0-1) who hadnt lost up to Saturday. The Blazers have a three-game road trip through Seattle, Everett and Kelowna before they host the Cougars.