“As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people.”
That quote from prominent American businessman Joseph B. Wirthlin was definitely stretched to its limit as the Prince George Cougars overcame the stellar goaltending of Tomas Suchanek en route to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Tri-City Americans on Saturday in front of 4,514 fans at CN Centre.
Jaxsen Wiebe played the role of hero at 4:52 of the extra period as his wrist shot changed direction and fooled Suchanek making way for a huge roar from the Cougar faithful.
ACTION JAXSEN!!! 😼@PGCougars | @AnaheimDucks#WHLPlayoffs | #FeedingTheFuture pic.twitter.com/rvu2FykY5p
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 2, 2023
The best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series is now tied at 1-1 as the Americans took the opener 6-4.
“Our message in the intermission (prior to overtime) was just shoot everything and hopefully something goes in and it deflected off one of their defenceman’s sticks and fortunately it bounced and we’ll take it,” said Weibe on the 94.3 the Goat post-game show.
Following a tough finish to game one, the Cougars came out hungry in the first period outshooting the Americans by a 14-9 margin. PG had a number of close calls but were unable to solve Suchanek.
A sharp-angle shot by Riley Heidt squirted to the side of the Tri-City net and was jammed towards the netminder’s pad causing a loud reaction from the crowd. Upon further review, the officiating crew of Brian MacDonald and Kyle Kowalski deemed it was no goal.
A few minutes later, Blake Eastman found some open ice and screamed down the left wing, letting a hard slap shot go but was stymied by the far post. Wiebe was also turned aside point blank by Suchanek.
Reese Belton had the best sequence to score for the Americans but was denied on three different times during the same shift by Cougars netminder Tyler Brennan.
For the second consecutive night, Tri-City opened the scoring at the 7:22 mark of the middle frame as a blast by Carter Savage was re-directed by Adam Mechura, going over the head of Brennan for a 1-0 lead.
PG ramped up the offensive pressure as Eastman continued to impose his will inside the Americans zone but was again denied by Suchanek. Koehn Ziemmer then sent Heidt on a partial breakaway, but was unable to light the lamp.
This is your nightly Tomas Suchanek highlight-reel save! 🧱️🇨🇿#WHLPlayoffs | #FeedingTheFuture pic.twitter.com/GJaF6ypCnb
— x – Tri-City Americans (@TCAmericans) April 2, 2023
The Cougars finally got themselves on even terms at the 12:02 mark. Viliam Kmec’s blast from the far point ended up being deflected by first Chase Wheatcroft and then Cole Dubinsky sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Goal Dubinsky, playoff edition 😎 https://t.co/ZtKxiW6TA4 pic.twitter.com/Ndp2keiVu4
— x – Prince George Cougars (@PGCougars) April 2, 2023
The boisterous home crowd had no shortage of tense moments in the third period. On a delayed Tri-City penalty, Wheatcroft was stopped by Suchanek in a high-traffic area keeping the score at 1-1.
The Cougars penalty kill was put to the test in the final two minutes as Wiebe bulled over Suchanek, which led to a disallowed Zac Funk marker.
On the Americans power-play, the Cats had a pair of 2-on-1’s to potentially close the game. Fischer O’Brien led the first rush and narrowly missed Heidt on the re-direct.
With 22 seconds remaining, a broken play at the Cougars blueline led Eastman to split the Tri-City defense and motored in on a breakaway, only to be denied by the crossbar sending the game to overtime.
PG outshot Tri-City 38-18 – however both teams went a combined 0-for-7 on the man advantage.
“I thought we were the better team. we just stuck with it. Man oh man is playoff hockey exciting”, said Cougars coach and GM Mark Lamb.
The series now shifts to Kennewick for the next three games Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from the Toyota Center. Cole Waldie will have all the action on 94.3 The Goat with the pre-game show starting at 6:35 followed by the play-by-play at 7:05.
No jokes here, just #WHLScores. #WHLPlayoffs | @NutrienLTD | #FeedingtheFuture pic.twitter.com/vxlyvd6LUy
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 2, 2023