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‘I had the chills’: Rookies were the unsung heroes in Prince George Cougars’ first 2019-20 win

Sixteen-year-old goaltender Tyler Brennan victorious in first career WHL start
Cougars-Rockets-Brennan 2019 home
Rookie goalie Tyler Brennan (#30) got his first WHL win against the Kelowna Rockets at the CN Centre (via Prince George Cougars/Brett Cullen Photography)

“He just jumped on me, took me down, tackled me. It didn’t even hurt. I couldn’t feel anything, I had the chills.”

That’s the reaction from rookie goaltender Tyler Brennan after veteran Taylor Gauthier mauled him to the ground after earning his first Western Hockey League (WHL) victory in his first major junior start between the pipes for the Prince George Cougars.

The 16-year-old made 26 saves on 27 shots en route to a 4-1 beating over the B.C. Division-leading Kelowna Rockets at the CN Centre.

If you exclude the one goal he let by while on a penalty kill in the second period, Brennan was unflappable and always alert on the puck’s location.

The Winnipeg product even kept his cool during the many scrambles in front of his cage between the Rockets’ players and his team’s defencemen.

“You just gotta think to the next shot,” said Brennan when asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters about how he was able to stay calm and centred during Saturday night’s (Oct. 5) contest. “You have to stop the next shot and you can’t think of anything behind you. So, if a goal goes in, you can’t dwell on that at all and you just have to focus on the next shot and focus on the next shift.”

It’s fair to say that not a lot of netminders at Brennan’s age get told during morning skate they’re getting the opportunity to start in a WHL game and experience the thrill of winning the same night.

He encourages other players his age going through the woes of making the highest level of major junior hockey to never give up.

“I never thought this would be real,” said Brennan. “First start, first win, but for younger goalies looking to come to this stage, just keep working hard, put the time and effort in, and it’ll come. You’ll make the team you want to make and you’ll get wins.”

In addition to Brennan’s performance, two other Cougar rookies stepped up in a big way to finally get into the win column as they were the last team in the league to do so.

Forward Filip Koffer, this summer’s import draft selection out of the Czech Republic, put up his inaugural three points in North American hockey, including his first WHL goal, an empty-netter in the third period with 41 seconds left, and two assists.

Defenceman Ethan Samson, a third-round 2018 bantam draft pick for Prince George, potted his first career WHL goal near the midway mark of the middle frame while on a power-play.

Jack Sander assisted on Samson’s goal, which was the Cats’ second of the game for a 2-0 advantage, after he opened the scoring with three minutes left in the first period.

Kelowna cut the lead in half to 2-1 three minutes after Samson got on the board thanks to a power-play one-timer from Nolan Foote.

Prince George’s lead stayed the same through the third until Kelowna netminder Roman Basran was pulled with 71 seconds remaining.

Josh Maser’s 3-1 insurance marker found the open cage with exactly one minute left in regulation time off a cross-ice pass from Matej Toman.

Koffer sealed the 4-1 deal moments later unassisted.

The monkey is now off the back of the Prince George Cougars in getting that critical first win, now lifting their record to 1-4-0-1 through the first three weeks of the 2019-20 season. 

They went 66 per cent (2/3) on the man-advantage and 80 per cent (4/5) on the penalty kill while getting 30 shots to Basran, who made 27 saves in his third straight start for the Rockets and his first loss of the year.

Prince George will head south of the border for a pair of games in Washington state next weekend.

They’ll be in Spokane to take on the Chiefs on Friday (Oct. 11) and in Kennewick on Saturday (Oct. 12) to face the Tri-City Americans.