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Cougars double up on Chiefs, can wrap up series in Game 4 Wednesday in Spokane

Zac Funk leads Cougar cause with two goals, two assists

The stars aligned perfectly in Spokane for the Prince George Cougars and now they have the Chiefs on the edge of elimination.

Their 4-2 win Tuesday at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Game 3 gave the Cougars a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven WHL Western Conference quarterfinal series with a chance to complete the sweep Wednesday in Spokane (6:35 p.m. start).

Zac Funk was in on all four Cougar goals with two goals and two assists, while defenceman Hudson Thornton finished with a goal and an assist.

Joshua Ravensbergen picked up his third win of the playoffs guarding the Cougars net after he stopped 28 of 30 shots.

Turnovers plagued the Chiefs in the first two games of the series and on Tuesday they coughed up the puck again at crucial times, which cost them dearly.

The teams were tied 1-1 in the second period when Ondrej Becher picked off a Will McIsaac pass in the Spokane end and took the puck to the net on a 2-on-0 break and while falling put a backhander over to Funk. He immediately dished to Colorado native Borya Valis for a tap-in from the open side in behind goalie Cooper Michaluk.

The Cougars took advantage of a two-man power play to make it a 3-1 game. After some extended zone time that forced Michaluk to come up with a couple of sharp saves, Prince George captain Hudson Thornton fired off a high wrister from close range that rippled the net five seconds after a hooking penalty to Nathan Mayes had expired.

The Cougars outshot the Chiefs 13-10 in the middle frame but had the better scoring chances and Michaluk was forced to come up big to keep it a two-score game.

Another Spokane giveaway early in the third period allowed the Cats to pad their lead. Michaluk left his crease to stop a puck behind his net and Becher got to it first, chipping it out to Funk who fired it in before the Chiefs goalie could get set in the crease.

But the Chiefs refused to go quietly. Ty Cheveldayoff cut the gap to 4-2 after the Cougars were caught by a long stretch pass off the boards from Ben Bonni to Owen Martin.

Cheveldayoff nailed the crossbar on a close-in chance with 2:36 left, the second time in the period the Chiefs put one off the iron.

Spokane went on the power play with 1:04 left with Viliam Kmec off for roughing to set up a 6-on-4 with Michaluk on the bench. But the Cougars held them off. The league’s No. 2 penalty kill excelled throughout the game. Killing off all five minor penalties.

For the first time in the series the Chiefs scored first. Hayden Paupanekis was set up just outside the crease 12 minutes in by a pass from behind the net from linemate Cam Parr.

The Cougars tied it up late in the first period, four seconds into their first power play, and it came from a very likely source. Funk, who led the WHL with 31 power-play goals, scored his first of the playoffs, tipping in a point shot from Thornton. Funk led the league 67 goals in 68 regular season games and finished second in the scoring race with 123 points.

Game 5, if needed, would be played Friday in Spokane, with Game 6 and 7, if necessary, in Prince George next Monday and Wednesday.

LOOSE PUCKS: Only twice in WHL history has a team rebounded from a 3-0 series deficit to win a series and Spokane was the first to do it when they came back to beat Portland in 1996 in the opening round. The Kelowna Rockets also did it to Seattle in 2013 in the first round… Cougars right winger Terik Parascak was named Monday as the WHL’s rookie of the month for the second time this season and picked up his sixth rookie-of-the-week award… Injured Cougars forward Hunter Laing is getting close to returning to the lineup. He suffered a concussion in a game in Vancouver March 17…  The Cougars had 16 power-play chances in the first two games combined and scored on four of them. They won the opener 6-1 and took Game 2 7-4…. Cougars winger and Los Angeles Kings draft pick Koehn Ziemmer is still looking for his first goal after five games since he returned to action from an broken ankle that sidelined him nearly four months. He had two assists in Game 2.

WHL Western Conference quarterfinal

Prince George Cougars vs. Spokane Chiefs

Cougars lead best-of-seven series 3-0

Game 3

Tuesday summary

Cougars 4 at Chiefs 2

First Period

1. Spokane, Paupanekis 2 (Parr) 12:30

2. Prince George, Funk 1 (Thornton) 17:30 (pp)

Penalties – Heidt PG (cross-checking) 7:24, Thornton PG (roughing) 15:02, McIsaac Spo (high-sticking) 17:26

Second Period

3. Prince George, Valis 2 (Funk, Becher) 5:40

4. Prince George, Thornton 1, 13:06 (pp)

Penalties – Pauls PG (delay of game) 5:54, Becher PG (tripping) 8:41, Mayes Spo (hooking) 11:01, Crampton Spo (cross-checking) 12:10.

Third Period

5. Prince George, Funk 2 (Becher) 5:59

6. Spokane, Cheveldayoff 1 (Martin, Bonni) 6:29

Penalty – Kmec PG (roughing) 18:56.

Shots on goal by

Prince George   11           13           9              -33

Spokane              7              10           13           -30

Goal – Prince George, Ravensbergen (W,3-0); Spokane, Michaluk (L,0-1)

Power plays – PG: 2-3; Spo: 0-5.

Referees – Trevor Nolan, Jake Podann; Linesmen – Anthony Guzzo, Max Lucas.

Attendance – 3,606.