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Prince George Cougars sniper Funk scores his 50th goal, and more

Cats paste Blazers 7-1 in start of home-and-home series that resumes Saturday in Kamloops
Prince George Cougars winger Zac Funk holds the puck that went into the net in the first period Friday against the Kamloops Blazers. It was his 50th goal of the season and he potted one more in a four-point night that led to 7-1 victory at CN Centre.

Zac Funk was confident before the game began he’d reach the 50-goal mark and said so in the pre-game radio broadcast.

It didn’t take him long to figure out a way to get it done.

With a little help from his friends on the Prince George Cougars the 20-year-old sniper had his magic moment Friday, much to the delight of the partisan crowd of 3,070 at CN Centre.

His 50th of the season, 17:25 after the opening puck drop, kickstarted the Cougar offence. Led by Funk’s two goals and two assist they were relentless the rest of the way, pummeling the Kamloops Blazers 7-1.   

Five goals in a 10-minute span of the second period blew this one wide open.

After Ashton Ferster opened the scoring for Kamloops the Cats were trailing 1-0 late in the first period when Ondrej Becher got the puck in the corner and passed it back to pointman Hudson Thornton who spotted Funk standing all alone in the left circle and fed it to him on the fly.

Funk’s hard blast found the net in behind Dylan Ernst and with that shot he became only the third Prince George player to score 50 WHL goals in a single season. It matched Todd Fiddler’s 50-goal campaign in 2013-14 and Funk is now within three goals of catching Quinn Hancock for Cougars’ high-water mark of 54, set 1997-98.

“It means a lot, I didn’t have that expectation coming into this year and I’m really happy that I got there, obviously a lot of work in the summertime and stuff like that all works to this moment,” said Funk.

“My teammates really help me passing me the puck and setting me up – they’re such good playmakers -and I’m real grateful that we’re here and doing this.”

At that point, with his 50th out of the way, Funk was just getting started. The veteran left winger from Coldstream, just outside of Vernon, struck again for his 51st in the second period, following up on Carlin Dezainde’s back-to-back goals to make it 4-1 game. Standing just off the post, Funk finished off a slick three-way passing play that started with Becher and ended with Terik Parascak sliding the puck to him through the crease.

Funk also set up Borya Valis for his 18th of the season and drew an assist on pointman Chase Pauls’ third period goal that gave him his four-point night. He now had 90 points, 22 shy of Hancock’s 112-point team record with 15 games left to catch him.

Funk joined the Cougars midway through last season in a trade from the Calgary Hitmen and with the two teams combined he had 26 and 58 points. Much like Chase Wheatcroft, who came to the Cougars in a summertime trade from Winnipeg in 2022 and went on to lead the Cougars last season with 46 goals and 107 points, Funk is making head coach and general manager Mark Lamb look like a genius.

“Credit to Mark, he’s such a good GM, he went out and got all these guys that can contribute and it really helps everybody out,” said Funk. “Obviously those records are there and I’m kind of thinking about that a little bit, but I don’t want to be too focused on that.”

The closest Funk ever came to potting 50 in a season was when he was 15 playing midget hockey for the U-18 Fraser Valley Thunderbirds when he scored 34 in 38 games.

“It’s a benchmark, and it is in every league,” said Lamb. “So for Funker to get to 50 goals it’s a nice little feather in his cap and he’s got time to add to that.

“He has a real nose for the net and  real good shot and he has a lot of good players to play with. He’s a physical guy that can score goals and he’s starting to feel it and starting to really figure it out.”

Parascak notched his third assist of the game on a 2-on-1 while shorthanded that Riley Heidt chipped in for his 28th goal and 88th point - the 12th shortie of the season for Prince George.

Cats rookie goalie Josh Ravensbergen made 22 saves for his 19th win of the season.

LOOSE PUCKS: The teams grabbed a bite to eat then boarded buses heading to Kamloops where they’ll play each other again Saturday… The Cougars (36-15-0-2) have a busy weekend with four games in five days. They will entertain Nico Myatovic and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Family Day Monday at 3 p.m. and again Tuesday at 7 p.m. Myatovic, a Prince George native picked by the Anaheim Ducks 33rd overall in the second round of the 2023 NHL draft, returned to the Seattle lineup Jan. 19 after missing 33 games with a broken leg…. Before the game, Cougars president John Pateman presented a glass plaque to Hudson Thornton, who this season became the Cats’ all-time leading defenceman in career goals (50), assists (125) and points (175). Through 53 games this season the 20-year-old from Winnipeg is averaging a point per game with 12 goals and 41 assists… Becher’s assist on the Cougars’ sixth goal was the 100th point of his WHL career.

Friday summary

Blazers 1 at Cougars 7

First Period

1. Kamloops, Ferster 13 (Keller) 14:28

2. Prince George, Funk 50 (Thornton, Becher) 17:25

Penalties – Lajoie PG (Boarding) 7:41, Pantalakis Kam (hooking) 10:11 (tripping) 11:26

Second Period

3. Prince George, Dezainde 18 (Heidt, Parascak) 3:32

4. Prince Geroge, Dezainde 19 (Dumanski) 6:51

5. Prince George, Funk 51 (Becher,Parascak) 8:31

6. Prince George, Heidt 28 (Parascak) 11:36 (sh)

7. Prince George, Valis 18 (Funk) 13:46

Penalties – Bawa PG (tripping) 11:26, Michael Kam (roughing), Lajoie PG (roughing) 15:56, Brunicke Kam (unsportsmanlike conduct) 20:00.

Third Period

8. Prince George, Pauls 5 (Dumanski, Funk) 14:34

Penalties – Koci Kam (interference) 16:14

Shots on goal by

Kamloops            10           5             8             -23

Prince George    11           21           14           -46

Goal – Kamloops, Ernst (L,11-18-12, 32-26) and, at 0:00 of third, Sanche (14-13); Prince George, Ravensbergen (W, 19-4-0-1, 23-22).

Power plays – Kam: 0-2; PG: 0-2.

Referees – Jake Podann, Taylor Burzminski; Linesmen: Tyler Garden, Anthony Maletta.

Attendance – 3,070.