Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Ravensbergen leaves slim pickings for Winterhawks

Prince George Cougars goalie stops all 33 shots in 5-0 win, Cats take Game 1 of WHL Western Conference final

How do you explain what Josh Ravensbergen means to the Prince George Cougars?

What he did Friday night in the opening game of the WHL Western Conference final, stopping all 33 Portland Winterhawks shots he faced on a 5-0 win, was nothing short of phenomenal.

His first-star performance blanking the most potent offence in the league would be worthy of high praise for any seasoned junior-aged goalie playing in the WHL’s final four. But the fact Ravensbergen is a 17-year-old rookie, still a year away from qualifying for the NHL draft, makes what he did Friday between the pipes even more remarkable.

It was the third shutout of the playoffs for the kid from North Vancouver and ninth overall this season. His star continues to rise and he’s got the perfect showcase to prove his talent for stopping pucks.

“I say the same thing as all you guys are saying, ‘wow, he’s playing unreal,’ that’s what it is,” said Lamb, in the postgame scrum. “He’s a real good  goalie and he’s been doing it since he came to training camp on Day 1 and he’s just unflappable.”

The Winterhawks came to Prince George riding a perfect eight-game winning streak that got them through the first two round of the playoffs unscathed. But they ran into a Cougars team that looks primed and ready to go as deep as possible into the postseason.

“I was very happy with how we handled ourselves against a very high-powered team that we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Lamb. “We just stuck to our gameplan and the guys bought in and played a real strong game.

“Nothing surprised me (about the Winterhawks), I was just happy with how we played against them.”

Three unanswered goals in the second period built a 4-0 lead for the Cats and pushed an already frenzied sellout CN Centre crowd of 6,011 over the edge.

These are the two top teams in the Western Conference going at it, with the Cougars ending up just one point ahead of Portland in the regular season, and it was obvious to everybody in the building that we’re seeing a brand of hockey being played at a skill level that far exceeds what transpired in the first two rounds.

Both teams had their chances in the early going and it was the Cats who struck first. The play started with the Winterhawks heading upstream when Cougars defenceman Viliam Kmec interrupted the flow and got his stick in the way of lead pass to deflect the puck ahead to Riley Heidt. He spotted Terik Parascak in behind enemy lines and rifled a wrister into the top corner of the net for the early lead just 1:43 in.

 The ‘Hawks tested Ravensbergen often in a fast-paced opening period but the rookie was ready for it and absorbed a rubber barrage with cool finesse, allowing no rebounds. Portland had a couple good cracks at the net on their only power play of the game before the Cougars took off on a 2-on-1 chance after Kyle Chyzowski got stripped at the blueline. Koehn Ziemmer fed the puck to Carlin Dezainde and his hot shot was stopped by Jan Spunar’s blocker.

Cougars defenceman Bauer Dumanski sparked the Cougar offence in the second period when he jumped  into the rush and was rewarded with a tape-to-tap pass from Zac Funk that he buried through Spunar’s legs.

The Cats made it 3-0, 14 minutes into the period, when a point shot from captain Hudson Thornton found its way through a screen and caught the net just inside the post.

“It feels really good, obviously, when you come out and hear the crowd roaring like that before O Canada, it’s pretty easy to play a good game like that,” said Thornton. “Game 1 is important to set the tone for the series and  obviously our group did that tonight. Game 1 also is the  easiest game, in my opinion, and it only gets harder from here.”

Both teams rattled iron behind the goaltenders before Ondrej Becher finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Ziemmer with a burst of speed breaking for the net that allowed him tip Zimmer’s return pass into the Portland net.

A final fury at either end just before the second intermission was punctuated by two rapid-fire point-blank range chances from Pericak that Spunar saved. Ravensbergen ended the period with a super glove grab to deny Marcus Nguyen.

The Cougars were the more physical team and made noise above the constant din of the crowd several times with the dull thunder of Winterhawks getting punched into the boards. They made it extremely difficult for Portland to get across the blueline with the puck and had great success with stick checking and shot blocking that defused numerous Portland attacks.

“I thought there wasn’t a lot of space out there in the offensive zone, it was clogged up at both ends,” said Winterhawks head coach and general manager Mike Johnston. “P.G. got a couple good looks off the rush, so we have to be better in that area there. It was real hard battles on both sides of the puck, I thought both teams competed hard on loose pucks.”

The Portland coach acknowledged Ravensbergen’s uncanny ability to control the puck and also gave credit to the Cougars’ supporting cast in front of him.

“The second chances are the key thing and we had some good looks, we had some good shots, and there were a few rebounds there,” said Johnston. “I thought their defence did a good job of getting our sticks as we’re going for those rebounds, boxing out, a few blocked shots  – we’ve got to converge on those rebounds.”   

Ziemmer capped the scoring in the third period with his first goal on home ice since November, when he broke leg falling in a fight, set up in front by linemate Dezainde.

“(Ziemmer is) coming around and I really like that line, especially with him on that line because he can put the puck in the net,” said Lamb. “Not only can he score but I thought in the last series, probably the last two games, they (with Matteo Danis)were one of our top lines.”

Winterhawks right winger Jack O’Brien said his team’s goal remains the same. Win one in Prince George and go back to Portland with the series tied.

“I don’t think it was a 5-0 game and we’re going to look at the positives and just learn from our mistakes tonight and we’ll be ready tomorrow,” O’Brien said. “The only way this game is a failure is if we fail to learn from it.”

Game 2 Saturday starts at 6 p.m.

LOOSE PUCKS: Winterhawks defenceman Luca Cagnoni missed Friday’s game with an undisclosed ailment. The 19-year-old Burnaby product, a fourth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2023, had 10 points in eight playoff games and led the Portland defence with 18 goals and 90 regular season points…. Alex Thompson took Cagnoni’s place on the blueline for his first WHL playoff action…Heidt’s first of two assists was the 22nd of his WHL playoff career, which broke the Cougar team record held by Blair Betts, set in 2000 before he began his NHL career with the Calgary Flames… The three stars were: 1. Ravensbergen, 2. Parascak; 3. Heidt… The teams have a quick turnaround and will meet in Portland for Game 3 on Monday, with Game 4 to follow on Wednesday.

WHL Western Conference final

Prince George Cougars vs. Portland Winterhawks

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

Game 1

Friday summary

Winterhawks 0 at Cougars 5

First Period

1. Prince George, Parascak 6 (Heidt, Kmec)  1:43

Penalties – Becher PG (high-sticking) 2:12, Nguyen Por (high-sticking), Parascak PG (embellishment) 14:02.

Second Period

2. Prince George, Dumanski 1 (Funk, Valis) 8:19

3. Prince George, Thornton 4 (Heidt) 14:02

4. Prince George, Becher 4 (Ziemmer) 18:14

Penalty – Zakreski Por (tripping) 10:24.

Third Period

5. Prince George, Ziemmer 2 (Dezainde, Dumanski) 15:45 (pp)

Penalty – O’Brien Por (boarding) 13:46, Chyzowski Por (cross-checking, slashing, misconduct), Sotheran Por (misconduct), Mori Por (misconduct), Zakreski Por (fighting), Buttazzoni Por (fighting), Heidt PG (fighting) Kmec PG (misconduct), Parascak PG (misconduct), Funk PG (slashing, fighting) 17:33.

Shots on goal by

Portland             11          10          12          -33

Prince George  15          13          -7           -35

Goal – Portland, Spunar (L,8-1); Prince George, Ravensbergen (W,8-0)

Power plays – Por: 0-1; PG: 1-3.

Referees  - Brian MacDonald, Corey Koop; Linesmen – Ron Dietterle, Devin Kohlhauser.

Attendance – 6,011.

Scratches – Portland: D Luca Cagnoni (injured), F Braeden Jockims (healthy, F Cole Slobodian (healthy), F Kyle McDonaugh (healthy); Prince George: D Drew Peterson (healthy), F Arjun Bawa (healthy), F Nick McLennan (Healthy), D Carson Carels (healthy), F Lee Shurgot (healthy), F Caden Lemire (healthy), G Brady Holtvogt (healthy), F Evan Groening (healthy), F Patrick Sopiarz (healthy).