Last weekend, the Prince George Cougars traveled down to Washington State for road games against the Spokane Chiefs on Friday and Tri-City Americans on Saturday.
Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena has been a tough place for the Cougars in recent years. They last won there on March 11th, 2017.
Friday, October 11th: Prince George 3 Spokane 1
That streak was broken on Friday as the Cougars rode 44 saves on 45 shots by goalie Taylor Gauthier and goals from Josh Maser, Connor Bowie, and Mitch Kohner to beat the Chiefs 3-1.
“I thought we played a really solid game against a very good hockey club. I thought we did a lot of things that we had to do to win. That’s what we ended up doing,” said Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb.
The vaunted Spokane power play, which was tops in the league in both the regular season and postseason in 2018-19, was held off on two chances.
“That’s work in progress. We are learning and it’s still early in the season. We are getting a lot better in that area as we are in a lot of different areas in our game,” said Lamb.
After the weekend, Prince George’s penalty kill is 14th in the WHL at 76.9%.
Saturday, October 12th: Tri-City 4 Prince George 2
The two-game Cougars winning streak was snapped on Saturday as Tri-City goalie Talyn Boyko stopped 31-of-33 shots. The now 2-5-0-1 Cougars could not find the net more than once on seven power-play chances in a 4-2 road loss.
“We had plenty of power-play chances and we only scored one power-play goal so I thought that was probably our weak spot,” stated Lamb.
The Cougars jumped all over the Americans in the second period, outshooting them 17-9, but the Americans held them to just one goal — a marker from Filip Koffer — and that was key. The Americans scored three straight to make it 4-1 with 18:05 left in regulation.
“I thought our first period was the one that really let us down. We were kind of sluggish. But we played probably our best period in the second period and they scored three goals on us. It was pretty even after that,” said Lamb.
Maser added his fourth goal this season to make things a little tighter at 4-2. That was the final.
Maser now has 100 career WHL points.
“He does everything for us. He’s our offensive leader. He’s our physical leader. He plays a ton of minutes. He’s been getting better every game. When he’s on his game, he’s a tough guy to handle out there,” said Lamb of his overage forward.
Gauthier earned third star honors with 28 saves on 32 shots.
He boasts a 1-5-0-1 record, a .910 save percentage, and a 2.92 GAA.
-The Cougars play two more against Spokane as the Chiefs head up to Prince George for games on Friday and Saturday. They will have already completed three of the four annual meetings between the two teams after this weekend.
-Spokane looks to be missing overage forward and signed San Jose Sharks prospect Jake McGrew. The speedster was injured in a fight with Everett’s Gianni Fairbrother a week and a half ago and did not play last weekend.
-Prince George signed late 2002-born goalie Jacob Herman out of the Swift Current Legionnaires program. He has put up a 2.44 GAA and 0.940 save percentage in six games with Swift Current in the SMHL so far this season. He backed up Gauthier in both games last weekend.
“We listed him and he was having a really good year for Swift Current. We have two really good, high-end goaltenders, and we don’t have anyone behind them. We needed a third goaltender. He’s capable and deserved it, so we brought him in and signed him,” stated Lamb.
-16-year-old goalie Tyler Brennan was held out after winning his WHL debut. He was still listed as day-to-day on the weekly report. But Herman was sent back to Swift Current, meaning Brennan is likely okay to at least back up Gauthier this weekend.
-Cole Moberg and Jackson Leppard both returned to the Cougars lineup last weekend. However, Ethan Browne and Ilijah Colina are still listed. Both are day-to-day.
-As mentioned last week, the Cougars have four 2019 WHL Bantam Draft picks competing in the WHL Cup, which goes October 20th-27th in Calgary. Both first-round picks Keaton Dowhaniuk and Koehn Ziemmer will play for Team Alberta. Dowhaniuk was the third overall pick and Ziemmer went fourth. Both are signed by Prince George. The 36th overall pick in the draft and third by Prince George, Jaren Brinson, will also play for Alberta. For Team Saskatchewan, signed second-round pick Kyren Gronick will suit up.
“We think they are very high-end kids that deserve it. That’s our future. They all have different elements of their game, but the one common element they do have is skill, and that is what we need to infuse into our lineup in the next few years,” said Lamb of his young prospects.