Recap: Thunderbirds Spoil Cougars Return Home
The Prince George Cougars suffered a 5-2 setback to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday, in their first game back home after their US Division road trip over the weekend.
The Cougars (17-21-4-3) missed an opportunity to gain ground on the Thunderbirds (21-14-4-2) in the Western Conference Wildcard race, as they only trailed by five points heading into the game.
Donovan Neuls scored twice for Seattle and Austin Strand, Nolan Volcan and Blake Bargar also found the back of net. Prince George native Dorrin Luding stopped 28 of 30 shots in the Seattle net, winning in his first start since December 9th.
Max Kryski and Jackson Leppard scored for Prince George, who dropped their third game against the T-Birds this season. Tavin Grant suffered the loss in net, turning aside 29 of 33 shots. Joel Lakusta was impressive in the loss, as the Cougars’ defenceman was named the game’s third star and had a pair of assists.
It was the start the Cougars wanted, as Kryski opened the scoring, seven-minutes into the first period. The 17-year-old ducked into the left-wing circle and picked the corner over Luding’s shoulder at 7:04; Kryski’s fourth of the season.
Prince George had a couple of great opportunities to open the scoring before the goal, as Jared Bethune just missed on a breakaway and Rhett Rhinehart rang a shot from the blue-line off the post.
The Cougars’ lead didn’t last long, as Seattle equalized a minute and a half later. Donovan Neuls had the puck come to him in the slot after hitting a Cougars’ stick, and he roofed his wrist-shot over Grant’s blocker at 8:37.
Seattle grabbed their first lead in the final seconds of the first period. Nolan Volcan got enough on his wrist-shot as it trickled over the goal-line with just 31-seconds left in the period. Volcan’s shot from the left-wing went off the top of Grant’s glove and slowly rolled over the goal-line, as Grant tried to dive back for it.
Seattle added two goals quickly in the second period, as Neuls and Strand scored 34-seconds apart. Strand made it 3-1 for the visitors when he hammered a slap-shot from the line at 8:26, and Neuls made it 4-1 on the next shift, redirecting Dillon Hamaluik’s shot from up top past Grant on the blocker-side.
Despite trailing 4-1, the Cougars made a good push in the second period and outshot the Thunderbirds 16-11. They got one goal back late in the frame courtesy of Jackson Leppard.
On a power-play Joel Lakusta, wheeled to the middle of the blue-line and had his wrist-shot tipped out front by Leppard, knocking it off the post and past Luding at 18:30 to make it 4-2; Leppard bagging his 11th goal.
Prince George tried to make a push in the third period but the Thunderbirds sealed it with an empty-net goal by Blake Bargar with just over a minute left in regulation.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Thunderbirds
Shots: 34-30 Thunderbirds
Power-Plays: Cougars 1-4 Thunderbirds 0-3
Three Stars: 1) Donovan Neuls 2) Austin Strand 3) Joel Lakusta
The two teams go at it again tomorrow, wrapping their four-game season series; puck drop is 7 pm at the CN Centre. Fans can purchase their tickets at the TicketsNorth box office at the CN Centre, or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca