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Parascak's hat-trick highlights Cougars' impressive playoff opener

Cats power play proves deadly in 6-1 win over Spokane Chiefs in packed CN Centre
Cougars forward Terik Parascak buries the puck in the goal behind Spokane Chiefs goalie Dawson Cowan as he is hit by Chiefs defenceman Will McIsaac during second-period WHL playoff action Friday night at CN Centre.

After he lit up the Spokane Chiefs for three goals in a 6-1 victory on Good Friday to start the playoffs at CN Centre, Terik Parascak wasn’t about to blow his own horn talking about how he good he was.

He said if it comes down to a vote to determine who the top Prince George Cougars rookie is this season, he’s convinced the hands-down winner should be goalie Josh Ravensbergen.

“He’s been great for us all year so it was no surprise tonight that he was good again, that’s kind of what we expect from him,” said Parascak. “He knows we have confidence in him and he had another great night. He’s had a great year and kept us in a lot of games this year and won us quite a few, too.”

Ravensbergen played exceptionally well, allowing just one goal on 25 shots, but it was the flashy Parascak who stole the show, scoring two of his three goals on power plays as he combined with line mates Zac Funk and Ondrej Becher to dominate the ice in almost every shift.

Parascak’s second career WHL hat trick could not have come at a better time, setting the tone for the Cougars to start the best-of-seven series.

“Obviously it’s super-cool, just being able to help the team win by getting those goals is huge, we just want a win on the board and luckily enough I was able to produce tonight,” said Parascak.

The Cougars had the WHL’s second-most potent power play during the season, striking with 30.1 per cent efficiency, and they flexed their manpower advantage muscles to grab the lead, 15:31 in. Funk’s shot from the circle gave goalie Dawson Cowan trouble and Parascak was perfectly positioned to bang home the rebound.

“Our line just kind of clicks together, we all feed off of each other and we work really well together and the chemistry we’ve built helps us all out,” said Parascak, who fed off the fan response that got his blood pumping rapidly, well before the opening puck drop.

“We feel it in our group, the fan support and the community rallying behind us here. It’s awesome to have a packed crowd and the white-out was super-cool to see, it just gave us a lot of energy.”

The full-house crowd of 5,692 white towel-waving fans barely had a chance to get resettled in their seats when the Cougars made it 3-1. After a flurry of goalmouth pressure applied by Borya Valis and Matteo Danis dancing in close quarters with the puck, Cowan kicked out a rebound to pointman Keaton Dowhaniuk who cruised in deep on the left side and blasted a bullet that found the target.

Parascak thought he’d scored his second of the game when he put a shot off the inside of the crossbar with the Cats’ power play generating all kinds of havoc in the Spokane zone. Play continued and the Cougars’ exquisite rookie got another deep-slot chance that was stopped by Cowan, but Parascak pounced on the rebound for a 4-1 lead with 14:30 ticked off the second-period clock.

The 17-year-old rookie from Lethbridge got the hats flying onto the ice late in the period while the Cougars were on a two-man advantage. Riley Heidt went cross-ice to Becher and his one-touch pass threaded a needle to the blade of Parascak’s stick for an easy tap-in that gave the Cats a healthy bit of breathing space to take into the intermission.

Becher had 10 of the Cougars’ 52 shots on goal, while Funk had seven, as did Kohen Ziemmer, still looking for his first point three games after returning from ankle surgery.

In his first WHL playoff start, Ravensbergen wasn’t tested often but when he did have to make the saves he looked totally relaxed in his crease. That’s not what you might expect from a 17-year-old stepping into a pressure-cooker environment, but he’s done it so often this season and has excelled, winning 26 games.

Sloppy play in the Cougars own end led to the game’s first goal, which came right after Ravensbergen had to drop to his knees to block a close-in chance from Berkly Catton. The puck skipped into the corner and Cougar captain Hudson Thornton, trying to clear the zone, put the puck right on the stick of Conner Roulette in the slot and the 20 year-old found the net low to Ravensbergen’s glove side.

The North Vancouver native had to bail out his team with some showstopping saves and Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb said his players were being “too fancy,” and forgot about playing defence on those occasions when Ravensbergen was severely tested.

“They were self-inflicted,” said Lamb. “We had some bad giveaways, uncharacteristic, and he was there for us.

“We got off to a bit of a slow start but we picked it up and controlled the game from then on.”

Instead of getting mad at allowing the first goal, the Cougars got even.

Becher broke in at speed and on a give-and-go entry with Funk he got the return pass from Funk and whipped it into the net behind Dawson Cowan. That came 39 seconds after Roulette’s goal. Becher’s goal extended his point streak to 20 games, while Funk, coming off a 67-goal, 123-point season, with that assist ran his consecutive point streak to 15 games.

“You have three guys with 100 points and a guy with 67 goals and I think on a nightly basis those guys are called upon by their team to create offence and that’s kind of what they did tonight,” said Roulette, whose line went head-to-head with Parascak’s line.

“It’s just finding the fine line of being able to play with them and kind of shut down their offence.  They’re just a really skilled line that can produce and they played good tonight.”

Penalties proved the Chiefs’ downfall as the Cougars went 3-for-10 with the extra skater. Roulette promised his team will be more disciplined in Game 2 on Saturday (6 p.m. start).

“It’s never fun coming into Game 1 and you take 10 penalties, said Roulette. “A lot of them are just accidental, getting your stick in the wrong place at the wrong time. Taking those (power-play) goals away, I think we played a good game.

“We had spurts where we played really good. Cowan stands on his head almost every night for us and tonight he played really well. It’s unfortunate we gave him so many shots against with the penalty kills but he’s not one to complain.”

Valis stripped the puck away from Cowan on the end boards and scored on wraparound for the third Prince George power-play goal to cap the scoring early in the third period.

“That was my first game of playoffs and it’s totally different than regular season, more hitting, more physical and everyone’s playing harder,” said Valis. “We came out hard and it’s to play in front of a sold-out crowd like that, the atmosphere is unbelievable. Thank you to the fans.”  

WHL Western Conference quarterfinal playoffs

Spokane Chiefs vs. Prince George Cougars

Cougars lead best-of-seven series 1-0.

Friday summary

Game 1

Chiefs 1 at Cougars 6 

First Period

1. Spokane, Roulette 1 (Catton, Van Olm) 3:09

2. Prince George, Becher 1 (Funk, Pauls) 3:48

3. Prince George, Parascak 1 (Funk, Becher) 15:31 (pp)

4. Prince George, Dowhaniuk 1 (Valis, Danis) 16:38

Penalties – Paupanekis Spo (roughing), Harrington Spo (roughing), McLennan PG (roughing), Thornton PG (roughing), Foster PG (roughing) 7:54, Cheveldayoff Spo (hooking) 13:55, Martin Spo (high-sticking) 16:38.

Second Period

5. Prince George, Parascak 2 (Heidt, Thornton) 14:30

6. Prince George, Parascak 3 (Becher, Heidt) 19:00 (pp)

Penalties  -  Martin Spo (high-sticking) 1:11, Dowhaniuk PG (tripping) 4:56, Weinstein Spo (roughing), Ziemmer PG (roughing), Heidt PG (roughing) 14:44, Weinstein Spo (high-sticking) Harrington (17:11, Van Olm (slashing) 17:48

Third Period

7. Prince George, Valis 1 3:47 (pp)

Penalties – Cheveldayoff Spo (tripping) 5:11, Dumanski PG (hooking) 7:24, Parr Spo (cross-checking) 18:05.

Shots on goal by

Spokane            8            11          6            -25

Prince George  16          16          19          -52

Goal – Spokane, Cowan (L,0-1); Prince George, Ravensbergen (W, 1-0).

Power plays – SP: 0-4; PG: 3-9.

Three stars – 1. Terik Parascak; 2. Ondrej Becher; 3. Joshua Ravensbergen.

Referees – Mike Campbell, Stephen Campbell; Linesmen - Ron Dietterle, Anthony Maletta.

Attendance – 5,692.