WHL Roundup: Cougars stun Rockets for second night in a row

James Doyle/Prince George Cougars


Moose Jaw Warriors (5) at Kootenay ICE (2)
Moose Jaw (47-13-1-2) // Kootenay (25-37-3-0)

The see-saw battle for first place in the Eastern Conference continued Wednesday as the Moose Jaw Warriors regained sole possession of the top spot with a 5-2 win over the Kootenay ICE.

Jayden Halbgewachs (San Jose Sharks) became the first WHL player since the 2014-15 campaign to score 60 goals in a season while Kale Clague (Los Angeles Kings) notched his first goal in a Warriors uniform while Adam Evanoff made 23 saves for the victory.

Goals from Vince Loschiavo and Brandon Schuldhaus put the Warriors up 2-0 after the first and Halbgewachs’ 60th of the season came 52 seconds into the second to quickly build a 3-0 lead for the visitors. Alec Baer would find the back of the net for his 26th of the season though, cutting the Warriors’ lead to two after 40 minutes.

Justin Almeida would make short work of the ICE’s attempted comeback in the third, scoring 34 seconds into the final period with Clague’s 11th of the season coming 4:50 into the period. Cole Muir’s second goal of the season rounded out the scoring, bringing the ICE within three just moments after Clague’s goal.

Duncan McGovern faced 27 shots, finishing with 22 saves in the loss.

Brayden Burke, captain Brett Howden (New York Rangers), and Tristin Langan each finished with a pair of assists while Halbgewachs and Loschiavo added helpers to give them multi-point games.

The win helped the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who clinched a playoff spot with Kootenay’s loss. The ICE are now six points behind the Red Deer Rebels for third place in the Central Division. With nine games remaining in their regular season, the Warriors took a two-point lead on the Swift Current Broncos for first place in the division, conference and league standings.

Calgary Hitmen (2) at Red Deer (3) — OT
Calgary (19-35-6-2) // Red Deer (23-28-10-3)

The Red Deer Rebels picked up a much-needed pair of points Wednesday at home against the Calgary Hitmen, aiding their playoff pursuits.

Reese Johnson scored his 20th of the season on the power play in overtime while Riley Lamb stopped 18 of 20 shots for his 10th victory of the season. Mason McCarty and Chris Douglas scored five minutes apart in the first period, but the Hitmen responded with goals from Riley Stotts and Conner Chaulk in the second and third periods respectively to force overtime before Johnson’s winner.

Jacob Herauf assisted on all three Rebels goals Wednesday for his second career multi-point game while Ethan Sakowich and Grayson Pawlenchuk also had helpers.

Nick Schneider (Calgary Flames) made 35 saves, but took the loss.

With the win, the Rebels now lead the Kootenay ICE by six points for the third and final playoff spot in the Central Division. The single point brought the Hitmen to within seven points of the ICE for fourth in the division.

The two teams will conclude their regular season series this coming weekend on Sunday, March 4 (4:00 p.m. MST) in Calgary.

Kelowna Rockets (6) at Prince George Cougars (7)
Kelowna (38-20-4-2) // Prince George (22-33-4-4)

Incredible. Bonkers. Amazing.

Many different words exist to describe Wednesday’s contest between the Prince George Cougars and Kelowna Rockets, but the Cougars will be more than happy to just use one word and three letters: win.

Kole Lind (Vancouver Canucks) tallied a natural hat trick in the first period, but Ilijah Colina fired back with his ninth of the season to keep the Rockets’ lead at two after 20 minutes.

Conner Bruggen-Cate restored the three-goal lead for Kelowna in the second, but goals from Aaron Boyd and Brogan O’Brien brought the Cougars back into the contest, placing them down 4-3 after 40 minutes.

Jared Bethune’s 21st goal of the season would tie the game up 6:05 into the third, while goals from Erik Gardiner and Austin Crossley 16 seconds apart kept the score tied. The next trading of goals belonged to the duo of Jackson Leppard and Rockets’ captain Cal Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning), but the game would need every last second to be decided.

With the Cougars buzzing in the offensive zone in the final minute, the puck came to a wide open Colina who had snuck in on net undetected by the Rockets’ defence, burying his second of the contest and the game-winner with 18 seconds to go.

In the offensive battle, it wasn’t a night for goaltenders, though Taylor Gauthier persisted to earn the victory, stopping 31 of 37 shots. James Porter stopped 33 of 40 shots in the loss.

Dillon Dube (Calgary Flames) added three assists and Gordie Ballhorn had a pair of helpers for Kelowna. The trio of Josh Maser, Josh Curtis and Joel Lakusta each had a pair of assists in the contest.

Leppard had a pair of assists to go along with his goal for the three-point game while O’Brien and Bethune each added a helper for the multi-point performance.

The Cougars’ victory kept the B.C. Division leaders within seven points of the second place Victoria Royals.

The season series between the two clubs will conclude with a date on Wednesday, March 14 (7:05 p.m. PDT) at Prospera Place.

Victoria Royals (1) at Kamloops Blazers (5)
Victoria (35-24-3-2) // Kamloops (28-32-1-4)

The Victoria Royals went into Wednesday’s game against the Kamloops Blazers seeking just a single point to clinch a playoff spot.

Instead, they left the Sandman Centre with a 5-1 defeat as the Blazers were ready and waiting to pounce on their opponents while give their own playoff hopes a boost.

Cononor Zary opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period before the Blazers went on to add four goals in the second period. Goals from captain Nick Chyzowski, Brodi Stuart, and Ryley Applet came in a 2:45 span during the middle period.

Andrei Grishakov got one goal back for the Royals, cutting the Blazers’ lead to three, but a late second period goal from Jermaine Loewen, his 33rd of the season, would restore the four goal lead almost immediately.

Dylan Ferguson (Vegas Golden Knights) locked things down in the third, turning aside all six Victoria shots to finish with 24 stops and the victory. Dean McNabb stopped 35 shots in the loss.

Joe Gatenby added a pair of assists while five other Blazers factored into the win with a single assist. Zary added a helper to his early goal for the multi-point effort.

With the win, the Blazers now sit at 61 points, six behind the Seattle Thunderbirds for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Royals remain a point away from clinching a playoff spot in the B.C. Division.

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