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Spokane tops Cats in overtime in possible WHL playoff preview

Chiefs defenceman Brayden Crampton ends it 1:11 into overtime
Chase Harrington was all smiles Friday night after his Spokane Chiefs upset the first-place Prince George Cougars 5-4 in overtime. The Chiefs' rookie, a 16-year-old native of Prince George, scored his fifth goal of the season in the first period.

If the playoffs started now, the Spokane Chiefs would be making plans for Prince George.

The eighth-ranked Chiefs gave the first-place Cougars a glimpse of what might be coming their way in the first round of the WHL playoffs.

If their 5-4 overtime win against the Cats Friday night at CN Centre was any indication, the Chiefs are going to give whoever they play in the postseason plenty of trouble.

Spokane defenceman Brayden Crampton ended it 1:11 into the 3-on-3 session, finishing a fast break into the Cougar end with a low shot that got through a partial screen and slipped through the legs of Josh Ravensbergen.

That was sweet relief for the Chiefs, who got hit by a Cougar comeback train in the third period that dug the Cats out of a 4-1 hole.

Zac Funk led the charge after a Chiefs’ turnover in their own end. He rifled in a shot from the face-off circle hard enough to crave a hole through the pads of Chiefs goalie Dawson Cowan. Funk’s league-leading 58th goal got it started, 5:45 into the period.

Viliam Kmec made it one-goal game with shot from the right circle at the 7:33 mark and Hunter Laing tipped in the tying goal on a Cougar power play with nine minutes left in regulation. The Cougars had their chances while outshooting the Chiefs 12-6 in the final period but couldn’t buy the winner.  

Funk left the game nine seconds into the second period after he took a hard dump-in shot square on the face while on the backcheck in the Cougars’ end of the ice. He returned for his next shift late in the period looking no worse for wear.

He opened the scoring in the first period, standing just off the post to snap home a pass from behind the goal line from Terik Parascak, adding to Funk’s team-record 26th power-play marker.

The point for the overtime loss, combined with Portland’s 4-3 loss to Moose Jaw on Friday, kept the Cougars (40-15-1-3) first in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Winterhawks, but their lackluster performance in the opening two periods wasn’t up to the standard coach Mark Lamb expected out his troops.

“We didn’t start on time,” said Lamb. “We just have to play better, that wasn’t a good enough effort from our team at all. You just have to be ready.

“Funker, he keeps on going and he got a couple of goals, but it’s all about the wins.”

It was near-perfect homecoming for Prince George native Chase Harrington.

Drafted eighth overall by the Chiefs in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft out of Delta Academy, the rookie left winger sparked the Chiefs’ offence with a long wrist shot from just inside the blueline after a face-off win than snuck past Ravensbergen’s amour.

“(Hayden Paupenekis) won the draw back to me and I looked towards the D and didn’t see him there so I just threw it on the net,” said Harrington,. “I was in a little bit of a drought at the start of the year but I’m starting to pick it up, starting to find the net.”

It was the fifth goal and 18th point of the season for Harrington, who has three goals in his last seven games. The Harrington cheering section – about 50 strong – let him know they appreciated what he showed on the ice in his first game at home since he left as a 14 year old.

“It was awesome, I got to play in front of all my family and friends and it was a really big win for us,” said Harrington. “I was a little stressed out on the bench in the third period but we got the job done. We just got away from our game a bit there but we found it in the end. We needed that a lot.”

Less than a minute after Harrington scored, with the Chiefs on the penalty kill, they finished off on a 2-on-1 rush with a tap-in goal from Ty Cheveldayoff, and they weren’t done. Late in the period Berkly Catton put the puck on a tee for Saige Weinstein and his quick shot found the net just inside the post.

The Chiefs kept up the carnage with a nifty breakaway goal from Shea Van Olm, who turned on the jets and was in full flight when he took a long tape-to-tape feed up the middle from Conner Roulette. Van Olm went forehand-backhand and tucked it in behind Ravensbergen, the fourth Spokane goal on 11 shots.

The Cougars and Chiefs meet again Saturday at CN Centre. Game time is 6 p.m.

LOOSE PUCKS: Harrington showed he’s not afraid the drop the gloves when he got into a fight with Cougars winger Jett Lajoie, a no-decision late in the first period that ended with both scrappers falling to the ice early in the bout… Single-game tickets for the playoffs go on sale Saturday at the CN Centre box office and online at the Tickets North website…. Cougars injured winger Koehn Ziemmer has been cleared to resume skating three months after he sustained a serous ankle injury in a game Nov. 27 against Everett. In 20 games, Ziemmer had 11 goals and 20 assists. The Los Angeles Kings draft pick flew to L.A. this week to be assessed by the Kings’ medical staff and the Cougars expect he will be ready to return for the start of the playoffs.

Friday’s WHL summary

Chiefs 5 at Cougars 4 (OT)

First Period

1. Prince George, Funk 57 (Parascak, Thornton) 9:57 (pp)

2. Spokane, Harrington 5 (Paulenekis) 11:04

3. Spokane, Cheveldayoff 10 (Crampton, McIsaac) 12:03 (sh)

4. Spokane, Weinstein 9 (Catton, Van Olm) 18:24

Penalties – Paupenekis Spo (tripping) 9:27, Weinstein Spo (high-sticking) 11:22

Harrington Spo (fighting), Lajoie PG (fighting) 17:31.

Second Period

5. Spokane, Van Olm 19 (Roulette) 9:29

Penalties – Kral Spo (fighting), Foster PG (fighting) 7:08, Bonni Spo (kneeing) 17:07, Cheveldayoff Spo (tripping) 19:52.

Third Period

6. Prince George, Funk 59 (Parscak) 5:45

7. Prince George, Kmec 8 (Funk, Becher) 7:33

8. Prince George, Laing 11 (Dezainde, Valis)  11:07 (pp)

Penalties – Shtrom PG (high-sticking) 3:02, Paupenekis Spo (high-sticking) 10:20.


9. Spokane, Crampton 7 (Vam Olm, Bertholet) 1:11

Penalties – None.

Shots on goal by

Spokane               8             9             6             1             -24

Prince George    9             21           12           1             -34

Goal – Spokane, Cowan(W,16-17-2-1); Prince George, Ravensbergen (L,22-4-1-1).

Power plays  - Spo: 0-1; PG: 2-5.

Referees – Corey Koop, Jarrod, Lucoe; Linesmen -Blair Scott, Anthony Maletta.

Attendance – 3,188.