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Early three-goal deficit a tough mountain to climb for Prince George Cougars

Cats swept in season-opening weekend with 4-1 loss to Vancouver Giants
Cougars-Giants-Browne 2019
Ethan Browne (#19) tries to skate around a Vancouver Giants' player at the CN Centre (via Prince George Cougars/Brett Cullen Photography)

There’s a reason why the Giants went all the way to the Western Hockey League (WHL) Finals last season and it was shown within the first eight minutes of Saturday night (Sept. 21).

The Prince George Cougars surrendered three goals in the first half of the opening frame and the hopes of mustering a comeback proved to be daunting, ultimately losing 4-1 and getting swept in the weekend doubleheader by Vancouver to start the 2019-20 campaign.

Taylor Gauthier is credited with the setback, but was pulled after the third goal at 8:02 of the first period and replaced by rookie goaltender Tyler Brennan.

The first-round WHL Bantam Draft selection of the Cats in 2018 showed potential once he got between the pipes, stopping all but one of the 13 shots he faced, including some instances when he had to scramble for the loose puck, much to the delight of the 2,163 CN Centre fanbase

On the other side, Giants’ netminder David Tendeck, a 2018 NHL Draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes, was virtually a brick wall, making 26 saves on 27 shots from Prince George.

The lone marker came off the stick of Cougars’ sophomore Mitch Kohner, who waited over 50 games to score his first career WHL goal.

The 17-year-old from Minnesota found the open net off a feed in front from rookie Craig Armstrong, who had to make a precise pass to himself in the neutral zone while surrounded by a trio of Vancouver players to get the puck out in front for his first career WHL point.

Tyson Upper had the second assist on the play for his third point in two games.

Kohner made it a 3-1 game after one period of play, but that’s the closest Prince George would get to the visitors after a scoreless second stanza, which saw the Cougars outshoot the Giants 14-5.

The final lamp was lit 2:55 into the third and Vancouver would hang on for the 4-1 victory.

Nine points was earned between Vancouver’s Jackson Shepard (two goals, one assist), Seth Bafaro (one goal, two assists), and Justin Sourdif (one goal, two assists).

Prince George went zero-for-five (0/5) on the man-advantage, while Vancouver finished with a 25 per cent rating at one-for-four (1/4) with Shepard’s power-play goal in the first resulting as the game-winner.

The Cougars will stay within the B.C. Division in making the road trip and ferry ride over to the provincial capital to take on the Victoria Royals Friday (Sept. 27) and Saturday (Sept. 28).

Prince George next home series is slated for Oct. 4 and 5 when they host the Kelowna Rockets.

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