Cougars grab point from Giants in OT loss

The win-starved Prince George Cougars probably deserved a better fate.

Their fans, all 2,083 of them who occupied the seats Wednesday at CN Centre, certainly felt their pain when they fell 4-3 in overtime to the Vancouver Giants, a loss which extended the Cats' losing streak to 11 games.

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After wriggling off the hook to erase a 3-0 deficit, just when it appeared this just might be the night the Cougars might find the win column for the first time in about a month, Bowen Byram fired the overtime dagger.

The slick 17-year-old defenceman, touted as a top-10 overall pick in the next NHL draft, created a 2-on-1 rush in the first minute of overtime and with 57 seconds off the clock he dragged the puck into the middle and ripped a shot through the legs of goalie Taylor Gauthier.

In the lead-up to overtime, the Cougars did not get discouraged, even when they were down by three goals. They got their feet moving and forechecked ferociously, scoring the next three to tie it up. Reid Perepeluk picked an opportune time to score his first goal of the season. Sent over the boards by coach Richard Matvichuk to energize the Cats' top line late in the third period playing right wing with Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Ethan Browne, Perepeluk gained the puck deep in enemy territory when the Giants lost possession, turned and fired as soon as he had the puck on his stick and his shot from the hash marks found a five-hole on goalie David Tendeck.

"The great thing was we didn't quit, the reliance in the room, just kept going at it and we made some changes with the lines to see if it could give us a little spark and it did," said Matvichuk.

"There's some things we have to clean up, but coming back from 3-0 against a very good hockey team and getting a point, we're happy, we're not excited but it could be a springboard for us."

Mikhalchuk and Josh Maser were the other Cougars goal-scorers in regulation time. Jared Dmytriw, Brayden Watts and Aidan Barfoot scored for the Giants.

The Giants (35-12-2-1) continue to set the bar as the B.C. Division leaders. The Cougars (16-30-4-2) gained a point but remained last in the Western Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot. The Seattle Thunderbirds, who lost 5-3 Wednesday in Victoria, continue to hold down the second wild-card spot in the West. The Cougars have 16 games left.

Just as they did Tuesday with a two-goal outburst in their 4-2 win over the Cougars, the Giants found their scoring touch in the second period and lit up the Cats for three goals in a 5:44 span.

Byram showed off his offensive abilities, jumping into the rush as Giants centre Justin Sourdif cruised through the slot with the puck and took a left-wing feed from Sourdif. Byram could have shot but spotted a wide-open Watts standing just off the far post and set him up for a shot into the open cage.

That came 83 seconds after Giants captain Dmitriw opened the scoring at the 7:11 mark of the second period. He stole the puck from Cats defenceman Austin Crossley and broke in alone, filing away his 11th goal of the season with a forehand-backhand deke through the legs of a sliding Gauthier.

Then at 12:55, right after a Giants' power play, Barfoot fired off a hard backhander from the left side that found the net over Gauthier's glove for a 3-0 lead.

The Cougars got one of those back, scoring on their third power play of the game.

The Cougars answered with two goals late in the period to make it close. Mikhalchuk became the first Cougar to reach the 20-goal mark when he cashed in a power play chance, batting in a rebound after Cole Moberg let go a slapper from the blueline. That came four minutes before the intermission.

Maser made it a 3-2 count with another power-play goal, scoring his 20th in typical Maser style. He drove to the net and laid the puck at the feet of Tendeck, then jammed in the rebound with just 10.5 seconds left in the period.

LOOSE PUCKS: The Cougars were without D Joel Lakusta (upper-body injury), G Isaiah DiLaura (upper body) and C Ilijah Colina (returned to his home in North Delta for personal reasons). DiLaura got hurt Monday in practice. Fifteen-year-old Tyler Brennan, called up from Rink Hockey Academy in Winnipeg for his second WHL game, backed up Gauthier... The Cougars hit the road for games Friday night in Kelowna and Sunday afternoon in Langley, their fourth game in eight days against the Giants... The Spokane Chiefs did the Cats a favour Wednesday, beating the Kelowna Rockets 5-4 in Kelowna.

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