The four year playoff drought is over. In the first season of the New Ice Age, the Prince George Cougars are headed back to the WHL playoffs following Friday night’s 3-1 victory over the Kamloops Blazers in front of 4570 strong at the CN Centre. Kody McDonald had a goal and an assist and Ty Edmonds did the rest making 36 saves in goal to secure the Cougars 31st victory of the season. Cole Ully had the lone response for the Blazers.
After a scoreless first, the Cougars drew first blood at the 2:01 mark of the second period. Jari Erricson raced behind the Kamloops net, centered a pass out in front to the waiting David Soltes who snuck a low shot past Connor Ingram and in for his 13th goal of the season, and his third goal in his past four games altogether.
The teams continued to trade chances, and late in the second Kamloops nearly tied the score, but Ty Edmonds made a terrific breakaway save off of Matt Revel which kept the Cougars ahead by a goal. It prove to be an important save because very early in the third the Cougars would extend their lead.
35 seconds into the period, Tyler Mrkonjic raced down the left wing, burst wide on the defender and centered a perfect pass to Kody McDonald who crashed the net hard and lifted one over Connor Ingram’s left pad to make it 2-0 for the Cougars.
Cole Ully made it 2-1 at the 8:22 mark of the third when he took a pass off a faceoff and wired one up top and over the glove of Ty Edmonds, but that’s as close as Kamloops would come.
Late in the third with under two minutes to go, Colby McAuley iced the game for the Cougars when he wired home a wrist shot from the left circle that just found it’s way in under the crossbar. The referees reviewed the play and deemed it a goal. McAuley’s fifth was more than enough to help the Cougars clinch their 31st victory and more importantly third place in the B.C. Division standings.
Prince George outshot Kamloops 41-37 and both goaltenders (Ty Edmonds and Connor Ingram) were named stars of the game for their performances. Special teams were a non factor as the Cougars went zero-for-six and the Blazers went zero-for-three.
The victory means that the Cougars will square off with the Victoria Royals in round one of the 2014-15 WHL Playoffs with the series starting on Friday, March 27th in Victoria.
The Cougars will wrap up their regular season tomorrow night with one final meeting with the Kamloops Blazers at the Interior Savings Centre.
Before the game, the Cougars handed out their 2014-15 Awards. Eight brand new trophies were presented to eight separate recipients before puck drop. The award winners are listed below:
Dan Hamhuis Award For Most Valuable Player – JANSEN HARKINS
Eric Brewer Award For Defensive Player of the Year – SAM RUOPP
Troy Bourke Award For Offensive Player of the Year – ZACH POCHIRO
Dr. Jeff Zorn Award For Scholastic Player of the Year – SHANE COLLINS
Brett Connolly Award For Rookie of the Year – JARED BETHUNE
Chris Mason Award For 3 Star Selections – TY EDMONDS
Dorothy Johnson Memorial For Fan Favorite Award – CHASE WITALA
Michael Fogolin Memorial For Player’s Vote Award – T YLER MRKONJIC