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Cougars lose heartbreaker in Portland

The Prince George Cougars were 39.5 seconds away from forcing overtime and locking up an important road point against a tough opponent Wednesday night. Cody Glass and the Portland Winterhawks were only too happy to emerge as the spoilers.
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The Prince George Cougars were 39.5 seconds away from forcing overtime and locking up an important road point against a tough opponent Wednesday night.

Cody Glass and the Portland Winterhawks were only too happy to emerge as the spoilers.

Glass took advantage of a 3-on-2 rush into the Cougar end, took a backhand pass from linemate Kieffer Bellows in the face-off circle and launched a rocket of a shot in over the glove of Tavin Grant.

That provided the edge the 'Hawks needed to lock up a 2-1 triumph and send the Cougars to their seventh regulation-time loss of the season. It wasn't for a lack of trying from Grant. The 19-year-old goalie from Burnaby blocked 41 of 43 shots and gave the Cats a chance for another Oregon upset.

Kehler was also a standout in the Portland nets, stopping 30 of 31 shots.

Mason Mannek fired the other Portland goal. Kody McDonald scored for the Cougars.

Portland (10-4-0-0) ended a three-game losing streak. The Cougars' season record dropped to 5-7-2-2.

McDonald ended a six-game scoring slump to open the scoring with about six minutes left in the second period.

The play started in the Prince George end when Bellows, the Winterhawks' leading scorer, fanned on a shot attempt in the slot and fell. Vladislav Mikhalchuk picked up the loose puck and chipped it ahead for McDonald, breaking in on the left side and he rifled a high wrist shot in over the glove of Cole Kehler for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.

The 'Hawks finally found a chink in Grant's armour with 1:39 gone in the third period, their 34th shot of the game. Mannek took a pass from Glass at the Cougars' blueline and launched a wrister from the face-off circle that ticked off the shaft of Grant's goalie stick high into the net on his blocker side to tie it up 1-1.

That ended Grant's shutout streak against Portland at 101 minutes 39 seconds, dating back to Oct. 1 in Portland when he made 47 saves for his first career WHL shutout, a 3-0 victory which gave the Cats their first win of the season.

The Cougars came into the game with the league's top-ranking penalty killing statistics and they were perfect in that department Wednesday, killing off all four minor penalties they were handed.

The Cats have now allowed just nine power-play goals in 67 opportunities - an 86.6 per cent kill rate.

They went 0-for-2 on the power play.

The Cougars wrap up a three-week stretch of seven straight road games Friday night in Everett against the Silvertips. In its last six games Prince George has a 2-2-0-2 record.

LOOSE PUCKS: The Cougars were missing two of their top-six forwards. LW Jackson Leppard suffered an upper-body injury after a high hit from Vancouver Giants defenceman Darian Skeoch early in the third period of Friday's game in Langley. Leppard left with an apparent concussion and is listed as day-to-day. Skeoch was not penalized on the play but received a four-game suspension under the league's supplemental discipline policy after the hit was reviewed. LW Aaron Boyd was also scratched Wednesday, recovering from a day-to-day lower-body injury he sustained Saturday in Kelowna. D Josh Anderson has resumed skating in practice but the 19-year-old Colorado Avalanche draft pick was forced to miss his ninth game with a separated shoulder. The Winterhawks were without C Ryan Hughes (lower body) and C Brad Ginnell (upper body)... Gregg Drinnan, the Kamloops-based dean of WHL writers, reported on his blog this week that former Cougar left winger Nikita Popugaev has signed a two-year, three-way contract CSKA Moscow of the KHL. Popugaev left the Cougars last week, 13 games into the season to return to his home in Russia. If he doesn't stick in the KHL he will either be sent to the farm club in Moscow, Zvezda Chekhov of the VHL, or to Krasnaya Armiya Moscow of the junior MHL.