In a game they pretty much had to win to keep their Western Hockey League playoff hopes alive, the Prince George Cougars got a memorable performance from one of their best players.
Tuesday night at CN Centre, Troy Bourke fired a pair of goals in a 3-0 victory against the Tri-City Americans. Bourke, an NHL draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche, was skating in his 200th WHL contest. With the importance of the game and the milestone in his mind, he had some extra jump in his stride and that was bad news for the Ams.
Bourke, an 18-year-old from Onoway, Alta., opened the scoring late in the first period when he hopped on the rebound of a Dan Gibb point shot and beat Tri-City goaltender Troy Trombley.
Then, at the 13:05 mark of the middle frame, Bourke scored an absolute beauty. The play started when he won a face-off and got the puck back in the high slot from teammate Dallas Ehrhardt. Bourke then danced his way through a series of Tri-City defenders and scored on a sweet backhander.
The goals were Bourke's 12th and 13th of the season.
Before the second period ended, Colin Jacobs added to the home team's lead when he ripped a power-play point shot past a screened Trombley.
The third period was scoreless.
In the Prince George nets, Mac Engel stopped all 21 Tri-City shots and picked up his second shutout of the season and the 50th win of his WHL career. Engel got plenty of help from his mates, who put in a solid defensive effort. Cats players were falling in front of shots all night, with Gibb, the captain, setting the tone.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Cougars had outshot the Americans 28-21. Prince George went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Tri-City was scoreless in one opportunity.
With the win, the ninth-place Cougars improved to 19-38-2-6 and pulled to within six points of the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds, the teams directly ahead of them in the Western Conference standings. The Portland Winterhawks did the Cougars a favour on Tuesday when they beat the Silvertips 6-3. The Cats have two games in hand on the Silvertips and will also have two in hand on the T-birds after Seattle skates against the Spokane Chiefs tonight.
The Cougars have seven games left to play, and six of them will be on a road trip that starts Friday in Seattle. The Cats will meet the Americans again on Saturday, this time in Kennewick, and will take on the Vancouver Giants on Sunday.