A perfect Cougars road trip was cut one point short by the Vancouver Giants, who beat the Cats at home for the first time since December 18th, 2021 by a 3-2 score in overtime this afternoon (Sunday).
Aside from the overtime winner, all of the game’s scoring came in a 10-minute span of the second period.
Vancouver opened the scoring at 2:15, Zac Funk scored his fifth goal of the road trip three minutes later to tie.
Vancouver would re-take the lead another two minutes later, and again the Cougars would tie thanks to a Hudson Thornton powerplay blast.
With an assist on the first goal and one of his own, Thornton becomes the Prince George Cougars’ all-time single-season points-leading defenseman.
All time PG Cougars single-season points leaders (defensemen):
1. Hudson Thornton – 69 points, 63 games played.
2. Christian Chartier – 68 points, 63 games played.
Nice. https://t.co/VoptgBoikQ pic.twitter.com/iaFttLOGht
— x – Prince George Cougars (@PGCougars) March 13, 2023
Former Cougar Kyren Gronick had assists on both of Vancouver’s second-period goals.
A late penalty to Chase Wheatcroft put the Giants up a man heading into overtime, where they would eventually score their one and only powerplay goal of the match.
No scoring in the first and third periods did not mean a lack of chances. The Cougars outshot Vancouver 36-27 in the game and forced backup goalie Brett Mirwald to make several great saves, including a shorthanded Ethan Samson shot in overtime, earning himself the honour of the game’s first star.
Prince George went 1/4 on the powerplay and 4/5 on the penalty kill.
4433 fans were there for the back-and-forth game at the Langley Events Centre.
A representative with the Vancouver Giants estimated 25 NHL scouts were also in attendance.
The Cougars end their season series record against the Giants with a 6-2-1-0 record, outscoring them 41-28 in that time.
The loss moves the Cougars’ record to 33-24-6-0 with 72 points, holding fourth place in the Western Conference.
Vancouver improved to 25-29-5-3, three points up on Kelowna for seventh.
The big question – what does this mean for the standings?
Both Tri-City and Everett, the two teams trying to catch Prince George for 4th place, were also in action Sunday, and both of them also went to extra time.
After leading 3-0 in the first period, Everett was able to barely stave off a Spokane comeback, winning 5-4 in a shootout.
Tri-City was not as lucky.
After thinking they had scored in overtime and piling off the bench to celebrate, the Americans’ goal was ruled to have been kicked in and was taken back.
Kelowna would end up winning in a shootout 5-4.
Tri-City sits 5th in the western conference, now with a 29-26-5-3 record, good for 66 points, still six points behind the Cougars.
Everett, sixth, gains a little bit of ground, improving to 31-29-2-1, 65 points, one back of the Americans seven back of Prince George.
All three of these teams have five games left.
The strong road trip for Prince George means the Cougars are on the verge of nailing down fourth place and home-ice advantage in the first round of playoffs.
The Cougars’ magic number for clinching sits at 4 points, meaning if Tri-City or Everett win out their final five games, P.G. needs just two more victories to lock up the spot.
The Cougars return home for four of their final five games, playing 8th place Kelowna on Wednesday, a weekend home doubleheader against 9th place Victoria on Friday and Saturday, and a home-and-home with B.C. Division-leading Kamloops to close the season on the 24th and 25th.
Tri-City plays last-place Spokane in four of their last five games, and Vancouver once.
Everett also has a statistically light finish to the year, with two against Spokane, two against Victoria, and one against Vancouver.
If all goes right for the Cougars, they could clinch home-ice advantage as soon as Friday.