Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Cougars miss their Friday wake-up call

Americans build off dominant opening two periods and hang on to defeat struggling Cats
PG Cougars logo

Too little, too late.

The game started after 7 p.m. Friday but you’d never know it by watching the Prince George Cougars go through the motions Friday night in their 4-3 loss to the Tri-City Americans.

They were stuck in idle for the better part of two periods and got exactly what they deserved, a humbling 4-3 defeat at the hands of the visiting Tri-City Americans, who extended the Cats’ losing streak to four games.

The Cougars came into the game trying to find a cure for their pop-gun offence that produced just 10 goals in their previous 10 games. They had a full week of practice to pull themselves out of that funk, but their hopes of a strong opening soon crumbled and they were under siege right the start.

As bad as the opening 20 minutes was for the Cougars, it was just what the doctor ordered for a struggling Americans team that came to Prince George having won just three of their previous 12 games.

Goals from Sam Huo and Mark Lajoie, through a screen on a power play, put the visitors ahead 2-0 by the first intermission and they refused to let up on the Cougars in the second period.

Connor Bouchard picked up his second assist dragging the puck around a Cougar defender to set up Parker Bell, whose quick shot beat Tyler Brennan to the glove side. Brennan’s night ended with the fourth Tri-City goal just as the game hit the halfway mark after facing 24 shots. The 18-year-old Cougar goalie went behind his net to stop a dump-in and he cleared it right on the stick of a falling Tyson Greenway in the corner. Jake Sloan rapped in the pass from his linemate while standing just off the post for a 4-0 lead.

Taylor Gauthier came in to replace Brennan and that gave the Cats a brief energy surge. The Americans came on strong again later in the period, but Gauthier was ready for them, showing his flexibility with a couple of leg-splitting saves and a quick left-handed glove stop. Gauthier’s 12 stop, no-goal relief effort was one of the bright spots for the Cougars.

The Cats finally ended a 91-minute scoring drought and their beleaguered power play, which had just two goals in 42 chances in the previous 12 games, got the job done. They won the draw in the Tri-City end and Jonny Hooker scored on a wraparound, his first goal since Oct. 22. But the Cats did nothing to sustain any momentum, not until the third period.

Somebody flicked a switch after the intermission and the Cougars came out looking like a different team and they created more chances in the first half of the period than they did in the first two periods combined.

Rookie winger Ryker Singer gave his team hope 3:25 into the third with a solo left-wing rush he ended with a roof-shot backhander he filed away behind rookie goalie Nick Avakyan. Hudson Thornton gave the partisan crowd of 1,813 brief hopes of a comeback when he scored on a Cougars’ power play to make it 4-3 with 2:40 left. But that was it. The Cougars held the zone with Gauthier on the bench but failed to get any quality shots on goal. Avakyan, a 17-year-old native of Glendale, Calif., picked up his first career WHL win, making 23 saves as his team outshot the Cougars 36-26.

Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb wasn’t all that impressed with his team’s third-period surge.

“It didn’t matter, it was how we started the game,” Lamb said. “We were skating uphill the first two periods, we had no chemistry, we couldn’t make a play. They looked like the faster team and the better team. We did get back into it, but it’s certainly not good enough.”

The Cougars will try for something better in the rematch Saturday night (7 p.m. start).

Friday WHL summary

Americans 4 at Cougars 3

First Period

1. Tri-City, Huo 4 (Bouchard, Serraglio) 7:23

2. Tri-City, Lavoie 2 Dragicevic, Huo) 12:21 (pp)

Penalties – Lajoie TC (interference) 7:00, Armstrong PG (interference) 7:07, Singer PG (tripping) 1:57, Dragicevic TC (charging) 14:59.

Second Period

3. Tri-City, Bell 6 (Bouchard, Brown)  4:30

4. Tri-City, Sloan 4 (Greenway) 10:00

5. Prince George, Hooker 6 (Thornton, Samson) 11:14 (pp)

Penalties – Freer TC (high-sticking) 11:04, Reeves PG (tripping) 16:35, Thornton PG (delay of game) 17:48.

Third Period

6. Prince George, Singer 2 3:25

7. Prince George, Thornton 3 (Samson) 17:20 (pp)

Penalties – Huo TC (boarding) 4:35, Heidt PG (holding the stick) 11:27, Huo TC (roughing) 16:12.

Shots on goal by

Tri-City  13           17           6             -36

Prince George    6             8             12-26

Goal – Tri-City, Avakyan (W,1-1-1-0); Prince George, Brennan (24-20, L,4-6-0-0) and, at 10:00 of second, Gauthier (2-4-0-0, 12-12).

Power plays – TC: 1-5; PG: 2-5.

Referees – Jeff Ingram, Corey Koop; Linesmen – Caden Fanshaw, Anthony Maletta.

Attendance – 1,813.