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Cougars fans (and a cop) welcome team back to PG after massive win in Portland

Cats beat Winterhawks to extend series to Game 6 Monday in sold-out CN Centre

After 15 hours on the bus, that police escort into the city was a welcome sight for the Prince George Cougars.

Prince George RCMP Cst. Aaron Semeniuk was waiting in his unmarked white SUV on the south side of the Simon Fraser Bridge and as soon as he saw that Cougar coach coming down the hill after their all-night journey from Portland, Ore., he flipped on the emergency beacon and siren to let them know how proud Prince George is about its hockey team.

Semeniuk is a Cougar season-ticket subscriber and his daughter Kyra works for the team as a ticketing associate. He wanted to make sure the team knows their efforts to bring Prince George its first WHL championship are appreciated.

Not since his playing days in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, when he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1990, had Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb seen that kind of police reception.

The team and the city are still basking in the glow of their 6-1 win over the Portland Winterhawks Thursday night which forced a sixth game in the best-of-seven WHL Western Conference final Monday night at a sold-out CN Centre.

“That’s pretty cool, a pretty cool experience,” said Cougars defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk, who collected his fourth goal of the playoffs to cap the scoring Thursday. “The job’s not finished. We just have to keep rolling and treat every game like a Game 7 now.”

“It’s awesome to see the fans waiting for us, the town’s buzzing,” said Cougars centre Hunter Laing, who scored the third goal in Game 5, his first of the playoffs. “We’ve got a couple days off and we’re going to stay focused. We’re right back to work (Saturday) to get ready for Monday.”

When the bus arrived just before 1 p.m. Friday, dozens of enthusiastic Cougar fans were waiting for them in the CN Centre parking lot dressed in their Cougar colours, holding signs that  read “Lamb For Mayor,” “Valis the Vanquisher, "Making PG Proud,” and one specifically geared to Cats goaltender Josh Ravensbergen which spelled out ‘LEATHER LARCENY.”

“It feels good to get back home and we’ll get back at it Monday,” said Cougars winger Koehn Zimmer. “It’s pretty cool to have the fans behind us the whole way, the support they give us throughout the year and especially now, it’s pretty unreal.”

Ziemmer conked out almost immediately on the drive back to Prince George and looked well-rested as the team unloaded gear from the bus.

Not everybody had a similar shuteye experience.

“I’m a good sleeper in the bus and I slept right through it,” said Ziemmer.

He had his best game of the playoffs Thursday with two goals and an assist.

“I feel like I’m really getting my feet under me again, feeling good about myself,”  said Ziemmer, who missed almost four months of the season with a broken ankle.

“It was obviously a big win there, but we have to bring it for Game 6 here and take the rest of the series. Everyone knows it’s do or die and we don’t plan on dying any time soon.”

The Cougars are united in their prediction for the Game 6 outcome.

“Game 7, let’s go,” said Laing.