There were some positives the Prince George Cougars can take away from last night’s (Sept. 20) game at the CN Centre.
Despite losing their third straight season-opening contest in a 5-3 decision to the Vancouver Giants, one could not help but notice a stronger will in the offensive zone, leading to more pucks at the net and creating plenty of opportunities.
.@PGCougars drop the puck on its 26th season against the reigning B.C. Division-champion @WHLGiants 😼 Thousands of fans are in the CN Centre will witness what should be an early test for the new crew of Cats | #CityOfPG @TheWHL @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/tON5cIjpBR— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) September 21, 2019
Tyson Upper, in his sophomore debut, played a key role in all areas of the rink, especially on offense, by scoring two goals in just over three minutes of play in the final stages of the second period to keep the Cats alive against the 2019 Western Hockey League (WHL) Ed Chynoweth Cup finalists.
The 17-year-old made it 3-3 with those two markers, helping his team come back from a 3-1 deficit and heading into the locker room in good spirits.
Play was almost evenly matched going into the last period, but the scales tipped in favour of the Giants by potting a power-play goal and an empty-netter to earn their first win of the new year.
The visitors got the ball rolling under five minutes in as Tristen Nielsen tucked one past Prince George goaltender Taylor Gauthier for the 1-0 lead.
Seth Bafaro followed his assist on Nielsen opening goal with one of his own with under five minutes left while on a power-play in the first period.
Chicago Blackhawks’ draft pick Cole Moberg showed everyone why he could be a candidate for top defenceman this year, capitalizing off a pass in front by Josh Maser for Prince George’s first goal of the season and cutting the scoreboard in half at 2-1.
Vancouver regained the two-goal advantage halfway through the middle frame, but would only last for six minutes before Upper netted his two tallies to make it 3-3 after 40 minutes.
The Giants took a 4-3 lead in the third and the Cougars just missed on an opportunity to tie it up once again as Moberg was set up perfectly for a one-timer to get past Trent Miner, but a miscue resulted in a whiff of air.
Gauthier was pulled with 90 seconds left in the game to give his offense a chance to even the score, but the Giants pushed the puck up ice for a tip-in empty net dagger and the 5-3 win.
The 18-year-old made 25 saves on 29 saves Friday night and even provided a helper on Upper’s first goal.
Defenceman Ryan Schoettler also had a two-point night with two assists, one on Moberg’s opener and the other on Upper’s tying marker.
Prince George will take on Vancouver for the second of the weekend doubleheader tonight (Sept. 21), 7 p.m. from the CN Centre.