Success on the power-play can be fleeting. Just ask the Prince George Cougars.
The Cats were unable to cash in on a five-minute cross-checking major to Vancouver Giants enforcer Kyle Bochek, misfiring on a golden opportunity to take control of the game.
This was one of the key turning points in PG dropping a 6-2 decision in front of a paltry 1,665 fans at CN Centre on Wednesday night.
“From start to finish I think it was a really good team game and we had some really good individual efforts from our entire team and I think everybody just did their job right,” said Michael Dyck, Giants head coach.
“That was a big big kill. Obviously their power-play has been very good against us and for us to do that tonight gave us a lot of momentum and confidence.”
Bochek crossed up with PG forward Koehn Ziemmer with both players dropping the mitts.
Overall, the Cougars went 1-for-5 on the man-advantage.
On a night where Cougars defenceman Ethan Samson suited up in his 200th WHL game it was Giants top NHL Draft prospect Mazden Leslie who stole the show with a hat-trick.
Leslie kick-started his night at the 16:43 mark of the first period, sneaking down the Cougars defence, accepting a Jaden Lipinski pass squirting it past PG netminder Tyler Brennan for a 1-0 lead.
Lipinski ⏩ Leslie!@WHLGiants | #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/GKQ5nxTISN
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 2, 2023
Before the intermission, Hudson Thornton put PG on even terms as he re-directed a Chase Wheatcroft pass into a yawning Vancouver cage – goaltender Brett Mirwald had no chance stopping that puck.
Hudson Thornton: sneaking in from the left point since 2003.@PGCougars pic.twitter.com/qrZalqPxWC
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 2, 2023
Aside from the missed power-play opportunity for PG, both teams traded goals in the second period to remain deadlocked at 2-2.
Giants captain Ty Thorpe swooped in after a sloppy sequence inside the Cougars zone, capitalizing on a Skyler Bruce feed.
Nearly four minutes later, Thornton got on the board for a second time blasting a one-timer past Mirwald on a Cougars power-play, which was assisted by Wheatcroft and Riley Heidt.
Despite being on even terms, the old ghost of inconsistency came back to bite the Cougars in the third period allowing four-unanswered Giants goals.
It all started with a faceoff win by Samuel Honzek, who found Thorpe and redistributed the puck to Leslie, who’s slow roller fooled Brennan, giving Vancouver a 3-2 edge.
At the 8:32 mark Skyler Bruce parked himself in front of the Cats net and fired a quick shot past Brennan to extend the lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Prince George. Following a Thronton minor for checking to head, Leslie completed the hat-trick by letting a hard shot go from inside the blueline to put the game out of reach at 5-2.
“You lose 6-0 the night before and you come back with a 6-2 win the next night. What else could you ask for,” said Leslie.
“A couple of my goals were just shots from the point that went through and our guys were at the net so if he is not going to see, he is not going to save it. If those guys aren’t there it is not going in.”
Fr tho 🧢🧢🧢 https://t.co/nwLXauYoPO
— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) March 2, 2023
Julian Cull collected an empty-netter for Vancouver ending a brief three-game winless skid.
The Giants improve to 22-28-5-2, while the Cougars drop to 29-24-4-0.
Vancouver maintains a two-point edge over the Kelowna Rockets for seventh spot in the Western Conference. PG on the other hand keeps its one point lead on fourth place, despite seeing their five-game winning streak snapped.
“We got away from our game recently. We were pretty hot, tonight wasn’t our night and we have to stick to our systems. We had a lot of turnovers and that is the result we get,” added Thronton.
The Cougars outshot the Giants 29-23. PG continues its four game homestand with a pair of games Friday and Saturday against the Spokane Chiefs (13-37-3-4).
“We need to let this one sink in a little bit, get a little mad and then forget about it. We can’t take Spokane lightly at all coming in – it’s four big points on the line for us and I think if we stick to our game it will be a good weekend for us,” said Thornton.
Spokane fell to Kelowna tonight (Wednesday) 7-4 down in the Okanagan. Smithers product Carson Golder and Andrew Cristall both netted a hat-trick for the host Rockets.