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HomeNewsCougars cap off red-hot February with shutout victory against Vancouver

Cougars cap off red-hot February with shutout victory against Vancouver

It took about 35 minutes for the Prince George Cougars to hit their stride, but once they did, the WHL’s most northern franchise looked like a freight train rolling down the tracks at full speed.

A three-point effort by Riley Heidt and a 22-save shutout by Tyler Brennan paced the Cougars to a 6-0 victory on Tuesday night over the Vancouver Giants in front of 1,954 fans at CN Centre.

Special teams proved to be an early key in the contest. Vancouver’s tenacious forecheck to begin the game resulted in four power-plays, including a lengthy 5-on-3 following minors to Viliam Kmec and Blake Eastman.

“We got a few pucks on net and we have to do a better job with those opportunities,” said Michael Dyck, Giants head coach.

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“We want to take advantage of the opportunities that you have in terms of the scoring chances. Their goaltender played well but we want to finish those.”

But, as an elite goaltender does, Brennan was the last line of defense for the Cougars stopping a few key shots that came to his direction.

After PG weathered the early Vancouver storm, Koehn Ziemmer blasted a one-timer top shelf on Giants netminder Jasper Vikman on the power play to give the Cougars a 1-0 edge after 20 minutes.

In the second, Julian Cull telegraphed a pair of wannabe clearouts inside the Cougar zone but was turned away by Brennan.

The turning point in the game came at the 13:17 mark of the middle period as Jaxsen Wiebe accepted a Chase Wheatcroft pass, and blew the puck past Vikman for a 2-0 lead.

PG’s power play capitalized on the late momentum as Heidt sent a hard slap shot into orbit past the glove of Vikman, stretching the gap to 3-0 after 40 minutes.

“We just stuck with it. We had those huge kills in the first period and got into a bit of trouble. When we got into the second we simplified our game a little more and got more disciplined and capitalized as a team,” said Heidt post-game to

With the engine finally revving on all cylinders, the red-hot Cougars swarmed Vancouver in the third period lighting the lamp three more times.

Following a Carson Hayes high-sticking minor, PG cashed in again on the man advantage – this time from Hudson Thornton. The 19-year-old stepped into the far-faceoff dot after a pass from Heidt and picked the corner past Vikman.

To put the icing on the cake, Wheatcroft, who has proven to be the steal of the offseason, notched his 40th of the campaign. A steal by Wiebe behind the Giants goal allowed the 20-year-old from Calgary to rip a one-timer into the Vancouver mesh.

Wheatcroft, who finished the contest with a goal and three assists, sits third in league scoring with 86 points.

“I don’t know if I could say that I saw this happening but it’s a pretty good feeling to pot 40 for the team and it’s helping us win games so it’s great to contribute and get the wins too.”

Wheatcroft is also three assists away from cracking the century mark in his WHL career.

Caden Brown picked up his 15th of the season with 4:11 remaining after a chaotic sequence inside the Giants zone. Carlin Dezainde’s point shot found the stick of Brown who redirected it past a sprawled-out Vikman.

The Cougars outshot Vancouver 35-22 – this includes a margin of 28-9 during the final 40 minutes.

PG went 3-for-5 on the power play while the Giants were 0-for-5.

Brennan, who was named the game’s first star, has allowed one goal in his last three starts at CN Centre, stopping 84 out of 85 shots in the process.

The 19-year-old New Jersey Devils prospect has won 10 out of his last 11 starts and is now tied with Ty Edmonds and Justin Pogge for the third most shutouts in franchise history with seven.

The Cougars capped off February with a 10-2-0-0 record – bookending the month with separate five-game winning streaks.

Furthermore, PG is 21-0-1-0 when leading after two periods this season. The Cougars are 6-1 against the Giants.

With the win, the Cougars are 29-23-4-0, one point ahead of Tri-City and Everett for fourth spot in the WHL’s Western Conference, Vancouver on the other hand, drops to 21-28-5-2 – two points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets for seventh.

Both teams complete the mid-week double-header tonight (Wednesday) at 7pm from CN Centre. It will mark the 200th WHL game for Cats captain and Philadelphia Flyers signed prospect Ethan Samson.

The Cougars will then continue their four-game homestand Friday and Saturday against the Spokane Chiefs (13-36-3-4).

Even with a favourable schedule down the stretch, Wheatcroft stated it’s important to stay focused and remain on the task at hand.

“You can’t really take anybody lightly in this league and every team can win on certain nights. We got to play our game and get some wins down the stretch here.”

Speaking of the Chiefs, they will take on the Rockets tonight (Wednesday) from Prospera Place in Kelowna.

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