The Prince George Cougars were able to find a stride in their own barn Tuesday night, defeating a one-win Calgary Hitmen hockey club by a score of 7-1.

Forward Kody McDonald notched a hat-trick performance in front of 2,577 fans at the CN Centre, while Jared Bethune potted a short-handed goal in the contest and adding two assists for a three-point night of his own.

On 94.3 the GOAT’s post-game show, Cougars Head Coach Richard Matvichuk was pleased with his team’s ability to stay in control, even with a sizeable lead.

“We had a little chat between the second and the third, and we basically just told them that we had to stick to our game. When they came out in the final period and played the way we were used to and the way that we should’ve been playing, we dominated again.”

McDonald scored the first goal of the game 69 seconds into the middle frame and immediately followed by Belarus import Vladislav Mikhalchuk 94 seconds later on a bar-down wrister.

The Cougars would get a three-goal advantage off Bethune’s short-handed snipe, but Calgary would take away Taylor Gauthier’s shutout with nearly five minutes left in the second.

Nevertheless, the 16-year-old netminder says the chance to play against his hometown Hitmen, and eventually nabbing his first career WHL win, was amazing in itself.

“It’s really indescribable. I remember going to games with my uncle when I was four years old, and I knew right then and there that I wanted to play in the WHL. Everybody played a really good game, and give our boys credit for keeping the puck out of our end.”

He made 16 saves on 17 shots compared to Calgary goaltender Nick Schneider, who, after being pulled, let in four goals on 18 shots.

McDonald went on to score his second of the evening near the mid-way mark of the third period, then sealed the hat-trick on a power-play with two minutes left; the goal would be approved by video review.

The Lethbridge, Alberta product says his top line of Bethune and Jackson Leppard have continuously tried to make each other better since the start of the season.

“Coming in and playing on that first line feels very good. You put in a lot of work and a lot of hard times and it’s just nice to see being paid off.”

Rookie Josh Maser and forward Aaron Boyd recorded the other goals for Prince George, en route to their third win of the season, only one point back of second-place Kelowna in the BC Division standings.

The Cougars’ roster is now also complete as the team decided to place Shane Collins on waivers at the “overager deadline” Tuesday afternoon.

The defenceman was one of four 20-year-olds and by rule, every WHL franchise can only have three.

Coach Matvichuk says letting go the Rosetown, Saskatchewan native was a tough decision to make, given his 186-game resume with the Cats.

“It was a very emotional day for all of us, not just the players. Shane is not just a great hockey player; his care for being everyone’s friend and doing the right thing really stood out. Parents should almost wish that they could raise their kid like him, because that’s the kind of man he is.”

He adds the win tonight was dedicated to Collins to mend the tears from earlier in the day.

Bethune, Boyd, and Brogen O’Brien will act as the three designated veterans for the rest of the 2017-18 season.

Prince George will play the Kamloops Blazers this weekend in another doubleheader to end the five-game homestand, Friday and Saturday at 7PM.

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