Cougars shut out Blades
With 20 games still remaining in their 2015-16 season the Prince George Cougars matched their win total from the previous season Tuesday in Saskatoon. Brogan O’Brien had a goal and three assists, Aaron Boyd chimed in with two goals (in his 100th career game) and Nick McBride made 27 saves for the shutout in a 7-0 Cougars victory over the Saskatoon Blades.
For a six straight game the Cougars scored first. Just 4:27 into the opening period Aaron Boyd raced down the right wing and was able to bang home his fourth goal of the season. Boyd, a second round draft pick of the Cougars in 2012 finished his 100th career WHL game with two goals and a +1 rating.
After 20 minutes the Cougars held a 14-13 lead in shots and a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard. Cougars goaltender Nick McBride was strong in the first making a series of timely saves once the Cougars had the lead.
Early in the second marked the turning point of the game. At 4:54 of the middle frame Cougars forward Chase Witala was given a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit to the head of Saskatoon captain Nick Zajac. Zajac stayed down for a moment or two before he was helped off the ice. He would return a few minutes later but the Cougars went the remainder of the game without their leading scorer.
Fortunately for the Cougars the Blades were not able to capitalize on both the five-minute major and a 58 second five-on-three power play chance. Moments after the major was killed off the Cougars increased their lead to 2-0 on a power play marker of their own. Brogan O’Brien knocked home a Brad Morrison pass at 11:27 past Blades goaltender Evan Smith for his 16th goal and his second of four points on the night. O’Brien’s power play marker gave the Cougars their first of three power play goals on the night, and marked the eighth straight game where the Cougars have scored at least once on the power play.
Jared Bethune then made it 3-0 on a breakaway goal at 16:22 of the second unassisted. For Bethune it was his 15th of the season.
After two periods the Cougars led 3-0 but the Blades held a slim 23-22 edge in the shots department.
2:41 into the final period Jesse Gabrielle continued the Cougars offensive onslaught when he buried his team leading 32nd goal of the season. His goal came shorthanded which moved him back into sole possession of first in the WHL with six shorthanded goals.
Jansen Harkins (18th), Bartek Bison (6th) and Aaron Boyd (5th) would add goals in a 4:42 span to put the score at 7-0. Cougars rookie forward Josh Curtis assisted on the two final goals marking his first career WHL points.
Nick McBride did the rest in goal stopping all 27 shots he faced for win number 11 and his third career WHL shutout. The power play went three-for-six while the penalty kill went a perfect five-for-five.
With the win the Cougars record now sits at 31-18-2-1. They are 23 points ahead of their pace from last season and matched their victory total from 2014-15. They are 2-0-1-0 on their current six game road trip and will look to grab their third straight road victory and their 14th road win overall when they clash with the Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday at the Art Hauser Centre.