WHL Roundup: McBride backstops Cougars to shootout win over Giants

Brett Cullen


Prince George Cougars (2) at Vancouver Giants (1) – SO
Prince George (34-13-3-0) // Vancouver (17-27-1-3)

The Prince George Cougars escaped Vancouver with a 2-1 shootout win over the Giants in the lone action on the WHL schedule Monday evening.

Jared Bethune opened the scoring for the Cougars 5:45 into the second period. His 13th of the season nearly stood up for the rest of the night.

Dawson Holt scored a short-handed goal with 4:11 remaining in regulation to force overtime.

Bursting down the right wing on a two-on-one break, Holt held and used Jeff Rayman as a decoy before firing a laser over the glove-side shoulder of Nick McBride to tie the game 1-1.

The short-handed opportunity came after an interesting interaction between Jonny Wesley and Sam Ruopp. In on the forecheck, Wesley got the hook in on Ruopp, who ended up with the Giants’ stick wrapped up in his sweater. After knocking the stick loose, it bounced off the Prince George crossbar before Ruopp swung and batted the lost twig back across the zone towards Wesley, who was tagged with a hooking minor on the play.

Overtime was nothing short of exciting as both teams traded opportunities. Of particular note, 15-year-old Bowen Byram – the third overall pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft – logged a length stretch of time on the ice during the three-on-three overtime and didn’t look one step out of place. Not bad for a kid playing in only his second career WHL contest. He even had a stellar scoring opportunity from the left faceoff circle, only to be stoned by McBride.

Byram, a product of Cranbrook, had been recalled ahead of the game with a number of Giants unavailable due to injury, including defencemen Matt Barberis and Darian Skeoch.

Despite the excitement, overtime solved nothing and the two teams required a shootout to come to a resolution.

Dawson Holt was unable to solve McBride on the first shot before Nikita Popugaev shuffled and shimmied left to right in tight, opening up Ryan Kubic to register the first goal of the shootout.

James Malm used speed before executing a quick move left to right, using a sly backhand to beat McBride. Then it was the former Giant Radovan Bondra who burned in and snapped a quick shot five-hole on Kubic to restore the Prince George shootout lead.

The next shooter saw Brayden Watts sneak a slow shot past the pad of McBride to once again tie the skills competition. With an opportunity to end the shootout, Jansen Harkins fired a wrist shot high glove past Kubic to give the Cougars a 2-1 victory.

McBride made 30 saves, plus one more in the shootout, to claim his ninth win of the season.

At the other end of the rink, Kubic steered aside 33 shots to backstop a depleted Giants team that was without the services of veterans Tyler Benson, Bartek Bison, Ty Ronning, Matt Barberis and Darian Skeoch, just to name a few.

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