(Photo: Allan Douglas)
The Kamloops Blazers finally solved the Cougars on home ice. Quinn Benjafield broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period, as the Blazers edged the Prince George Cougars 4-3, Saturday at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
It was the Blazers first win in three tries at home against the Cougars, as they dropped the previous two encounters. Saturday also marked the first time in five games the home team won in the season series.
Saturday was the Cougars third consecutive loss, as the Blazers jumped ahead of them into fourth spot in the BC Division.
Prince George dug out of a two-goal hole in the first period, as Josh Curtis and Dennis Cholowski scored just over two-minutes apart in the middle frame. Chance Adrian scored his first WHL goal in the dying moments of the third period, as the Cougars tried to stage a last gasp comeback attempt. Tavin Grant was saddled with the loss, stopping 26 of 29 shots.
Luc Smith, Garrett Pilon, Quinn Benjafield and Brodi Stuart scored for the Blazers, who won their fourth in a row and eighth in their last 11-games. Dylan Ferguson was arguably the Blazers best player Saturday, as the Vegas Golden Knights prospect stopped 38 of 41 shots and was named the game’s second star.
It wasn’t the opening 10-minutes the Cougars envisioned, as the Blazers stormed out to a 2-0 lead. Kamloops opened the scoring on the game’s first power-play, as Jermaine Loewen set up Luc Smith. Loewen flew down the left-wing, before dishing the puck across to an open Smith, who scored from the top of the crease. Less than two-minutes later, the Blazers added to their lead, and with a man in the box.
Short-handed, Garrett Pilon won a footrace to the puck in the Cougars end. The Blazers forward drove the net but as he was cutting across to the far post, he lost control of the puck, but it rolled off his stick and squirted through Grant’s legs and in at 9:19.
After being down 2-0 and outshot 11-9 through 20-minutes, the Cougars found another gear in the second period. Prince George not only scored twice in two-minutes to tie the game but they outshot the Blazers 20-9.
Josh Curtis got the Cougars on the scoreboard five-minutes in, salvaging a three-on-one rush. Jared Bethune came down the left-wing and fired the puck back to the middle to Curtis. The pass ended up in his skates but he spun quickly digging it out, and fired a backhand over a sprawled Ferguson at 4:57; Curtis’ first goal in since October 22nd.
Prince George got back on even terms two-minutes later, as the Captain got in on the act. Dennis Cholowski hit Jackson Leppard with an outlet pass on the right-wing, before making a b-line to the net. Leppard fired a waste high shot back at the goal, that Cholowski managed to get just enough of to redirect pass Ferguson at 7:09. Cholowski’s seventh goal extending his point streak to six games.
Quinn Benjafield broke the 2-2 tie with just over six-minutes left in the third period. The Blazers’ found room off the wall on the left-wing, and wired a wrist-shot over Grant’s shoulder on the short side at 13:47.
Brodie Stuart seemingly iced the game late, adding an empty-net goal with 35-seconds left to give Kamloops a 4-2 lead. However, Chance Adrian made in 4-3 in the dying seconds, as he scored his first WHL goal with just seven-seconds left on the clock. Adrian cashed in on a rebound off the goalie’s pad after Liam Ryan let a shot go from the right-wing.
Adrian’s goal was as close as the Cougars would get, as they couldn’t get the puck to the net in the final moments.
Final Score: 4-3 Blazers
Shots: 41-30 Cougars
Power-Plays: Cougars 0-2 Blazers 1-3
Three Stars: 1) Quinn Benjafield 2) Dylan Ferguson 3) Brodi Stuart
Brogan O’Brien and Kody McDonald each had their five-game point streaks come to an end in the loss. The Cougars road record slips to 5-5-0-2 with the setback, and they’re now 3-4-2-0 against the BC Division.
The Cougars (9-12-2-2) now head to the Okanagan to face the Kelowna Rockets on November 29th, before returning home to face the Vancouver Giants on December 1st and 2nd.