(Prince George, BC) The last victory for the Prince George Cougars (18-40-5-3) at home in the CN Centre came on January 21st, eight weeks ago. Friday night the Cougars sent 42 shots onto the net of the Portland Winterhawks (39-20-3-3). Prince George backed it up with another 49 shots on Saturday.
Unlike Friday evening, where Portland used three power-play goals to pull out a 3-2 victory, Prince George flipped the script against the Winterhawks. On Saturday, it was the Cougars who scored two power-play goals to fuel their victory.
Tied at one entering the third period, Prince George scored four of the next five goals to win 5-2 for their first victory at home in the last 13 games.
Vladislav Mikhalchuk netted his 22nd goal of the season on the power play after Portland was called for tripping in their own zone. Prior to the goal, Prince George worked the puck well around the perimeter. Eventually, Tyson Upper sent a pass through Portland’s penalty killers for Mikhalchuk to one-time by Joel Hofer.
A little over seven minutes later Portland was pushing for the equalizer. Connor Bowie, a former Winterhawks prospect the Cougars acquired in the Dennis Cholowski trade, went in on a two-on-one with Mitchell Kohner.
The 17-year-old from Fort St. John, BC thought shot all the way, and gave the Cougars a two-goal cushion with 7:35 left in the game.
Portland played without five of their usual starters as Cody Glass, Seth Jarvis, Matthew Quigley, John Ludvig, and Kade Nolan were all scratched due to injury.
Only 17 Winterhawks skaters played on Saturday, most played played on a different line or defensive pair.
A holding call against Portland behind their net put the Cougars on the power play for the fourth time in the game. Despite being shorthanded, Joachim Blichfeld got behind the Prince George defense. The 20-year-old had an opportunity to score his sixth shorthanded goal of the 2018-2019 campaign and cut the lead to one.
However, Taylor Gauthier made the save and Prince George went the other way. Less than 30 seconds later Josh Maser scored his 29th goal of the season putting the game out of reach.
Cross Hanas picked up his eighth goal of the year finding a loose puck near the crease.
Trailing by two with less than 90 seconds left, Mike Johnston pulled Hofer for an extra attacker.
The gamble did not pay off for Portland.
Maser hit the empty net for his 30th goal in his third year with the Cougars. In 2017-2018, Josh came up two goals short of reaching the 30 milestone.
When the final horn sounded the shot clock once again favored Prince George. A season high 49 shots for the Cougars.
Portland allowed 91 shots in the two road games against Prince George compared to 47 in the two games in the Rose City.
The attention for the Winterhawks now turns to securing home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
Tri-City lost in overtime to Vancouver which locked in the first round series between Portland and Spokane.
With Spokane winning against Victoria, Portland’s lead over the Chiefs is down to three points for second place in the U.S. Division.
The Winterhawks have three games remaining on their schedule. Two of the three games will be played at home. The first is with Everett who travels south for a Tuesday evening game. Portland then finishes with a home-and-home series with Seattle to close out the 2018-2019 regular season.
The Chiefs have four games left to play. They face Kamloops, Kelowna, and finally Tri-City twice in the next six days.
The two teams met last year in a series which required seven games. Portland used their home-ice advantage to win game seven at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.