The Prince George Cougars have not enjoyed a lot success at Toyota Center over the years, but Saturday night they were all smiles.
Brogan O’Brien and Jesse Gabrielle each had a goal and an assists as the Cougars rolled to a 5-2 victory, ending the Tri-City Americans 4-0 start on home ice.
“It’s nice to be on the winning side,” O’Brien said. “We have been looking good so far, especially the last two games on this road trip. We are deep up front and our defense has been helping us out. Our whole team has been playing well.”
The Americans (5-4-0-0, 10 points), who had the game tied up at 2 in the first period, never scored again, despite plenty of opportunities.
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“I thought we were flat,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “We didn’t have the same puck pursuit and jump that we did last night (4-2 win over Kamloops). We didn’t put the pressure on and get our forecheck going. Because of that, they got a lot of time in our zone.”
Prince George (10-2-0-0, 20 points), which was 0-2 at Toyota Center last year, had a 4-2 lead after two periods, and Gabrielle made it 5-2 with an empty-net goal at 17:03 of the third.
“We like to be physical and use our size and speed to take control of the game,” said O’Brien, whose team was ranked No. 2 in this week’s CHL poll.
Clinging to a 3-2 advantage after 20 minutes, the Cougars increased their lead to 4-2 as Justin Almeida’s one-timer in front of the net beat Tri-City goalie Rylan Parenteau at 6:56.
The Americans had good scoring chances toward the end of the second period, but passes were off the mark, killing opportunities.
“We weren’t as sharp as we need to be,” Williamson said. “Bounces weren’t going our way.”
Prince George found the net first as Bartek Bison beat Parenteau 7:45 into the game. Vladislav Lukin evened things up for the Americans, taking a feed off the wall from Tyler Sandhu and beating Cougars goalie Ty Edmonds at 11:59.
Yan Khomenko and O’Brien scored back-to-back goals to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead, but Tri-City would have the final say of the period.
Morgan Geekie pulled the Americans within 3-2 with 20.5 seconds remaining, redirecting a shot from the point by Dylan Coghlan past Edmonds.
With an assist on Geekie’s goal, Parker Wotherspoon tied the late Todd Klassen (1990-93) with 104, which ranks third all-time among Tri-City defensemen. Tyler Schmidt (2006-11) leads with 132.
Parenteau, in just his second game with the Americans after arriving Thursday, finished with 32 saves.
“It has been a quick turnaround for me,” said Parenteau, who was acquired in a trade with Prince Albert. “I have had a lot of help getting adjusted and the fans have made me feel welcome. There is still a lot to improve on. We just didn’t get the result we wanted tonight.”
MILESTONES: Williamson is two wins shy of 500 for his career that also includes stops with Portland and Calgary. He would be the seventh member of the WHL’s 500 club, along with Ken Hodge, Lorene Molleken, Don Hay, Ernie McLean, Pat Ginnell and Don Nachbaur.
Cougars 5, Americans 2
First — 1, PG, Bison 2 (Gabrielle, Ruopp), 7:45. 2, TC, Lukin 5 (Sandhu), 11:59. 3, PG, Khomenko 4 (O’Brien), 12:18. 4, PG, O’Brien 2 (Ruopp), 18:52. 5, TC, Geekie 3 (Coghlan, Wotherspoon), 19:39. Penalties — Wotherspoon, TC (kneeing), 13:01.
Second — 6, PG, Almeida 3 (McAuley, Bethune), 6:56. Penalties — Yaremko, TC (hooking), 12:32; Wotherspoon, TC (slashing), 13:26; McDonald, PG (embellishment), 13:26.
Third — 7, PG, Gabrielle 5 (Ruopp, Harkins), 17:03 (en). Penalties — McDonald, PG (delay of game), 2:47; Gabrielle, PG (roughing), 8:08; Olson, TC (roughing), 8:08; Bethune, PG (hooking), 18:25.
Shots — PG 16-13-8 — 37. TC 9-7-11 — 27. Power plays — PG 0-3. TC 0-2. Goalies — PG, Edmonds 7-1-0-0 (27 shots-25 saves). TC, Parenteau 2-2-0-0 (36-32). Referees — Mike Langin and Shane Warshaw. A — 3,705.