Cougars Blank Blazers
48 hours removed from a sobering loss at the hands of the Vancouver Giants, the Prince George Cougars ‘responded’ with arguably their best effort of the 2016-17 season Saturday in Kamloops. Richard Matvichuk’s team struck three times in the first and third periods en route to a dominant 7-0 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. Jared Bethune and Jesse Gabrielle each had two goals and an assist and Ty Edmonds made 35 saves for his seventh career shutout. The Cougars had two shorthanded goals and a power play marker and improved their overall record to 15-4-2-0.
From the drop of the puck the Cougars showed no signs of a hangover from Thursday’s loss. They were aggressive, the put tons of pucks on net early and would eventually get rewarded at the 11:33 mark. With the Cougars killing off a penalty, forward Colby McAuley used his speed to burn past a Blazer defender. Kamloops starter Connor Ingram stopped his first attempt, but McAuley was able to tuck his own rebound past Ingram’s pad on a backhand to make it 1-0.
Just over two minutes later the Cougars added to their lead when Brad Morrison wired home a Brogan O’Brien pass from behind the Blazers goal and past Ingram for his ninth. Jared Bethune and Jesse Gabrielle then teamed up for Bethune’s seventh and the Cougars took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. The Cougars outshot Kamloops 19-7 in the first period.
Early in the second the Cougars continued to use their speed to their advantage. Aaron Boyd was awarded a penalty shot at 2:38 when he was hauled down on a breakaway. Boyd’s backhand deke attempt was denied by Connor Ingram, but it helped maintain the Cougars momentum.
Later in the period with the Cougars again shorthanded they were able to add to their lead when Jared Bethune finished off a Jansen Harkins pass with a quick shot past the blocker of Ingram and home to make it 4-0. The Cougars held a 28-21 shot advantage through 40 minutes. Kamloops goaltender Connor Ingram was pulled after surrendering four goals on 28 shots faced.
The third period brought more of the same as the Cougars converted three more times in the final frame. First it was Yan Khomenko who finished off a Jansen Harkins pass for his seventh. Then Jesse Gabrielle rattled off back-to-back goals at 10:11 and 10:49 of the period for his ninth and 10th goals of the season to make the score 7-0.
From there the Cougars held off the Blazers who finished the game with 35 shots, but none found their way past Ty Edmonds who secured his 11th victory of the season and the seventh shutout of his career.
Special teams played a big part in the game as the Cougars league leading penalty kill finished six-for-six with two shorthanded goals for. They added one power play goal on three attempts on the man advantage.
With the victory the Cougars improved their road record to 9-1-1-0 and their overall record at 15-4-2-0 which puts them back atop the WHL standings. They are now 2-0 this season against the Blazers and are 1-1 on this current three game road swing.
Tuesday night in Kelowna the Cougars will wrap up their three game road trip when they battle the Kelowna Rockets for a fourth time this season.