The Prince George Cougars hadnt had the best start to their season during a three-game trip through the U.S. Division.: they gave up 17 goals combined in losses to Portland and Everett.
But Sunday night, Troy Bourke had two goals as they held off the Tri-City Americans for a 2-1 victory before a crowd of 3,112 at the Toyota Center to make their 739-mile trek back to northern British Columbia a bit more palatable.
Those were two pretty tough nights we went through, Cougars coach Mark Holick said. Its early in the year, we still have a lot of bodies kicking around and you want to get everyone in. It got away on us in those two games. To come back tonight shows a little bit of character. Any points on the road we love to have. Well take it and go.
The Americans suffered their second setback in as many nights, losing their season opener to Spokane on Saturday.
I thought some guys battled really hard, Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. I thought Hamo (Justin Hamonic) had one of better games hes had in a long time, but it wasnt enough. We need to get to a higher level.
The Americans have given up eight goals in two games. Those are not the numbers a coach wants to see, but Hiller said goalie Eric Comrie has done his job.
I dont think I can blame any one (of the goals) on him, Hiller said of Comrie, who had 27 save against PG. I thought tonight he made four or five remarkable saves. We are going to need that from him, and he knows it. Its his job and he accepts that.
Tri-City had a tough time clearing the zone and moving up ice the entire game. Toss in 11 penalties that resulted in eight PG power plays, and it was a long night.
We are having a tough time coming out of our end, Hiller said. We arent coming out clean and therefore are spending more time there than we need to. You want to make a good play, but if you cant, you have to exit the zone and we arent doing either very well right now.
Trailing 2-0 to start the third, the Americans got a boost with a power play. Their best chance a redirect by Brian Williams off a Connor Rankin rebound was cleared off the crease by Klarc Wilson 50 seconds into the action.
Tri-City finally got on the board midway through the third as Beau McCues short-handed shot beat Ty Edmonds unassisted at 13:55.
With a little more than a minute to play, the Americans pulled Comrie for an extra attacker, and with PGs Jari Erricson off for hooking, the Americans had a 6-on-4 power play for 1:04. The Americans got off a few shots, but couldnt find the net.
Prince George controlled play in the first period, outshooting the Americans 13-6 and taking a 1-0 lead at 11:17 with a power-play goal by Bourke.
Marc McNulty had the original shot from the left circle. The puck ricocheted off Comries pads and into the slot where it got tangled in Bourkes skate and ended up in the net .
The Cougars were again on the prowl at the end of the first, but Comrie denied Wilson at the left post with 10.5 seconds remaining.
You want to try and dictate the pace as much as you can, Holick said. They are a well-coached group. They have Comrie an ace in the hole right there. We knew we would have to get some traffic around the net.
The Americans, trailing 1-0 after the first, came out with a little fire under their skates to start the second.
Just 1:30 into the action, Rankin came out of the penalty box, took a pass up ice from Michal Plutnar and headed toward the net, where his shot was stopped by Edmonds.
Jessey Astles brought the crowd back into the game with a pummeling of Erricson at 9:30, but the momentum didnt last long as the Americans constant parade of players to the penalty box continued.
The Cougars took advantage of a 5-on-3 man advantage at 14:05 as Bourke, quarterbacking the power play, blasted the puck from the point and found the net at 14:05 to give PG a 2-0 lead.
I came off my NHL camp (Colorado) a little shaky, Bourke said. It feels good to finally get in the goal column, but that had nothing to do with me. The boys were drawing penalties and they made some nice passes. That first one was a lucky one, it was in my skates. That was a greasy one.