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HomeNewsCougars top line tap dances around lowly Rockets in 6-3 victory

Cougars top line tap dances around lowly Rockets in 6-3 victory

If there is a better trio in the Western Hockey League than Chase Wheatcroft, Riley Heidt, and Koehn Ziemmer I would sure like to meet them.

Their mastery in the offensive zone continued on Wednesday night against the Kelowna Rockets compiling a combined three goals and seven assists for the PG Cougars in a 6-3 win in front of a boisterous crowd of 2,025 fans at CN Centre.

Wheatcroft, who was the first star with a five-point effort kicked off the fireworks at the 6:10 mark of the first period as his pass on a 3-on-1 transition rush found Ethan Samson who sniped it past Kelowna goaltender Jari Kykkanen for a 1-0 lead.

“It’s pretty special. I am playing with two exceptional players and I am just trying to keep up with those two guys. Honestly, it’s special to watch and they are even more fun to play with.”

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Wheatcroft had a career-high 38 points last season split between the Winnipeg ICE and Lethbridge Hurricanes. Fast forward one season later and the 20-year-old from Calgary is second in league scoring with 101 points – trailing only Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats who has 129.

To say the change of scenery has been a game-changer for Wheatcroft would be an understatement.

“I worked really hard for this. This isn’t something some people might call luck. I have worked really hard over the summer to prepare myself for the season and playing with those two special players helps as well. Overall, PG has been unreal to me and I can’t thank them enough for everything.”

Early penalty trouble by the Cougars would pull the Rockets even ninety seconds later as Gabriel Sturzc’s one-time blast on a feed from Andrew Cristall found its way past Tyler Brennan.

Before the period’s end, the PG’s top line created more offensive magic. A Ziemmer pass from inside the Kelowna half wall connected with Heidt who had the presence of mind to dish it to Wheatcroft whipping it past a sprawled-out Kykkanen.

Prince George picked up right where they left off to begin the middle period – a failed clearing attempt by Rockets defenceman Jackson DeSouza found the blade of Wheatcroft who shimmied past a wimpy check creating a 2-on-1. Ziemmer’s initial shot squeaked through Kykkanen but was gobbled up by Wheatcroft who shoveled it into the yawning cage.

More questionable calls by the officiating crew kept Kelowna in it. A Bauer Dumanski interference minor led to an Adam Kydd power-play marker, trimming the edge to 3-2.

The Cougar penalty kill came through in the clutch, burning off a Blake Eastman double minor for high-sticking. At the tail end of the Kelowna man advantage, Brennan robbed Ty Hurley in tight after initially bobbling the rebound.

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“The game was really choppy and then we got into some penalty trouble before some 4-on-4. We couldn’t get our lines out or on our toes. It was a mental game, the guys stuck with it and that is exactly what happened after the mid-way point. We got some timely offence after,” said Mark Lamb, Cougars head coach, and general manager.

Shortly after, PG’s quick-strike offense put the game out of reach. Wheatcroft found Eastman on another transition rush, who tapped home the puck into a yawning cage. Over a minute later, the Cougars checking got on the scoresheet. A strong defensive play by Cayden Glover led to a lead feed pass to Cayden Brown who snuck behind the Rockets blueline and went stick side on Kykkanen for a 5-2 edge after 40 minutes.

“We can bring a lot of offense from our backhand and that is how it normally happens. We have three forwards in the top ten in scoring and we want to get them the puck – they are good offensive players, which lead to a good transition game,” added Lamb.

In the third, another dominating shift by PG’s top line led to a Ziemmer goal on a delayed Rockets penalty. Wheatcroft entered the zone on a 2-on-2 rush and was hauled down by Elias Carmichael. A blast by Ethan Samson led to numerous rebounds before Zimmer cleaned up the loose change at the top of the Kelowna crease.

Ethan Middlestedt lit the lamp late for the Rockets to bring the spread back down to three.

PG outshot Kelowna 40-30 overall. The Rockets went 2-for-5 on the man advantage while the Cougars did not receive a power-play.

The Cougars (34-24-6-0) need just two points to clinch 4th spot in the Western Conference and continue their three-game home stand against the Victoria Royals (15-42-6-1) Friday and Saturday from CN Centre.

Victoria fell 11-1 tonight (Wednesday) against the Kamloops Blazers.

Matthew Seminoff had eight points in the victory for the Blazers (45-11-4-2) who wrap up the regular season schedule against the Cougars on March 24th and 25th.

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