Winterhawks Edge Cougars 5-4 in Road Trip Opener
Wednesday night in Portland, OR the Prince George Cougars dropped a 5-4 decision to the Portland Winterhawks. Cody Glass paced the Portland attack with two goals and two assists while linemates Skyler McKenzie and Keegan Iverson also chipped in with goals. Radovan Bondra had three assists in response for the Cougars while Jesse Gabrielle and Brendan Guhle each had multi-point games.
Portland jumped out quickly to a 2-0 lead. At 5:36 of the first, draft eligible forward Cody Glass scooped a backhand shot over the left shoulder of Cougars starter Ty Edmonds from in close for his 28th of the season. Then at 8:53 of the first Skyler McKenzie took a pass from Glass and was able to bury his 38th of the season from in close to make it a 2-0 game.
Back came the Cougars though 13:08 when Aaron Boyd parked himself in front of the Portland net and redirected home a Radovan Bondra pass on a power play. Prince George’s power play would finish the game two-for-five and has now clicked successfully in five of it’s past 14 opportunities.
Brendan Guhle got the Cougars back even at 18:48 of the first when he and Radovan Bondra combined on a two-on-zero effort. Guhle finished the game with a goal and an assist, and has now reached 100 points for his WHL career thanks to his two point night.
After one the score was 2-2 with Portland holding an 11-8 edge in shots.
Very early in the second the Cougars grabbed their first (and only) lead of the game when Jesse Gabrielle snuck his 31st of the season through the legs of Portland starter Cole Kehler from atop the right circle. Gabrielle’s goal came on the power play.
Winterhawks captain Keegan Iverson got the Winterhawks back on even terms at the 10:56 mark when he tipped home a pass from Cody Glass and home for his 22nd.
Moments later the Cougars had an excellent chance to restore their lead, but Cole Kehler made two A+ saves in succession off of Kody McDonald and Aaron Boyd to keep his team tied. His first save came off a two-on-one pass for McDonald when he lunged to his left and turned him away. The rebound popped right to Aaron Boyd in the slot, but Boyd’s quick backhander ended up in the glove of Kehler who used every inch of his 6’4″ frame to make what could very well be the save of the year in the WHL The score was 3-3 through 40 minutes with Portland outshooting the Cougars 27-19.
Cody Glass would once again make his presence felt at 3:43 of the third off a two-on-one rush. Glass carried the puck across the line down the right wing, and with his linemate covered completely by the defenseman he elected to shoot and roofed his 29th of the season past Ty Edmonds’ left shoulder to give Portland the 4-3 advantage.
Joachim Blichfeld provided some insurance for Portland at 8:09 when he connected off a pass from Henri Jokiharju from the left side of the net.
Colby McAuley got the Cougars back within one with his 26th at 8:44 of the final period, but that’s as close as the Cougars would get as they’d end up falling 5-4. The final shots were 38-33 for Portland who with their 36th win of the season clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Portland’s victory moved them to within three points of both the Tri-City Americans for third in the US Division and three points back of the Victoria Royals for the second wildcard playoff spot. The Cougars loss coupled with the Kamloops victory at home against Victoria means that the Cougars are two points up on Kelowna for first in the B.C. Division, but they have played one more game than their Okanagan counterparts. The Blazers are now back within five points of the Cougars, an each team has eight available points left to earn.
Prince George will now head to the Tri-Cities for a game Friday night against the Americans who are looking to fend off the surging Winterhawks. That game goes Friday at 7:05 PM from the Toyota Center in Kennewick, WA.