Winners of just two of their previous 10 games, the Prince George Cougars had no shortage of inspiration when they got to the rink at Veterans Memorial Coliseum to take on the Spokane Chiefs Friday night in Spokane.
The Cougars found what they were seeking, scoring three unanswered goals in a 4-2 victory to end a three-game losing streak. The beleaguered Prince George power play, which came into the game sputtering at 9-for-74 clip, cashed in twice on six opportunities.
The win left the seventh-place Cougars (8-13-0-0) three points ahead of the eighth-place Chiefs (5-12-2-1) in the Western Conference standings.
“The way the last couple of games have gone, our need to play 60 minutes, our need to have a solid team game and get more contributions from our players, to see that tonight was outstanding,” said Cougars associate coach Josh Dixon.
“I’m really proud of the guys, it was one of our best performances of the season. In terms of sticking to the gameplan, our breakout passes, our ability to move the puck to the neutral zone and not turn pucks over, that was much improved.”
Two goals less than five minutes apart in the second period gave Prince George a 3-2 lead to take into the second intermission. Hudson Thornton took advantage of a two-man power play when he blasted in a one-timer past goalie Mason Beaupit. Connor Bowie’s sixth goal of the season gave the Cougars their first lead of the game 13:15 into the second period.
Rookie Carter MacAdams banked a shot in off Beaupit while standing behind the net to cap the scoring in the third period.
Taylor Gauthier was solid throughout, guarding the Prince George nets, and he made 28 saves to earn his fourth win of the season. The 20-year-old’s glove save to deny Bear Hughes in the third period just after MacAdams scored will likely be make the WHL's save-of-the-week list.
The Chiefs led 2-1 after 20 minutes. Carter Streek opened the scoring on a left-wing rush, 5:40 into the game. The Cougars tied it not long after on a power play. A wrist shot from Thornton was tipped in by Jonny Hooker for his seventh of the season just past the halfway mark of the opening period. Jack Finlay made it a 2-1 count at 15:25 on another Chiefs’ power play, with Cats winger Leikit Reichle serving a slashing penalty.
LOOSE PUCKS: Sixteen-year-old centres Riley Heidt and Ryker Singer returned to the Cats’ lineup after missing three games while they played in the Capital City Challenge in Ottawa… Cougars defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk served a one-game suspension for his actions in a fight at the end of Wednesday’s game in Portland…. The Cougars finish off their five-game roadtrip Saturday in Kennewick, Wash., against the Tri-City Americans… Finlay was among 15 WHL players invited to Canada’s world junior team camp Dec. 9-12 in Calgary. The WHL list, with their respective teams, also includes goalie Dylan Garand (Kamloops); defencemen Kaiden Guhle (Edmonton), Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw), Vincent Iorio (Brandon), Ronan Seeley (Everett), Olen Zellweger (Everett); forwards Conor Bedard (Regina), Ridley Greig (Brandon), Dylan Guenther (Edmonton), Jake Neighbours (Edmonton), Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) and Logan Stankoven (Kamloops). If they make the cut, they will be away from their WHL teams until Jan. 6. The tournament starts Dec. 26 in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Friday WHL summary
Cougars 4 at Chiefs 2
1. Spokane, Streek 3 (Wiles) 5:40
2. Prince George, Hooker 7 (Thornton) 11:20 (pp)
3. Spokane, Finlay 8 (Hughes, Toporowski) 15:35 (pp)
Penalties – Brook PG (cross-checking) 8:40, Achison SPO (slashing) 9:37, Reichle PG (slashing) 14:35.
4. Prince George, Thornton 4 (Bowie, Ziemmer) 8:38 (pp)
5. Prince George, Bowie 6 (MacAdams, Dumanski) 13:15
Penalties – Hughes SPO (charging) 7:17, Toporowski SPO (double high-sticking) 8:04, Eastman PG (cross-checking) 19:26.
6. Prince George, MacAdams 5 (Brinson, Kmec) 9:30
Penalties – Swetlikoff SPO (high-sticking) 1:36, Singer PG (fighting), Gizowski SPO (fighting) 11:18, Toporowski SPO (cross-checking, misconduct) 19:23.
Shots on goal
Prince George 6 11 5 --22
Spokane 12 10 9 --30
Goal – Prince George, Gauthier (W,4-5-0); Spokane, Beaupit (L,4-6-1).
Power plays – PG: 2-6; SPO: 1-3.
Attendance - 3,511.