(ISN) – It went down to the wire, but the Cariboo Cougars are off to the BC Major Midget League semifinals.
The Cougars defeated the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds 4-2 on Sunday morning to clinch their best-of-three quarter-final series in a thrilling Game 3 at Kin 1.
Captain Austin Gray scored twice and added an assist to lead the way offensively for the Cougars. Todd Bredo and Colton Thomss also scored for the victors. Kyle Bosko and Brice Sharp scored for the Thunderbirds.
Griffen Outhouse made 18 saves for the Cougars, while Paul Tucek was much busier and had 44 stops for the Thunderbirds.
Up 1-0 after one, the Cougars used a quick start in the second to build a three-goal cushion. First Gray and Steven Jandric broke in on an odd-man rush, although they didn’t score initially, the puck trickled back to trailer Bredo who fired it home at 4:40.
Less then two minutes later with the Cougars on the PP, Gray faked a pass to fellow point man Joel Patsey and fired a shot past Tucek at 6:13. Patsey and Justin Almeida got the assists.
The Thunderbirds got one back on a power play of their own at 14:29. Outhouse stopped Nic Ponak’s long shot but Kyle Bosko was crashing the net and the puck went off his leg and in. The Cougars protested it was kicked in, but the officials conferred and ruled it a good goal. Alex Furlan also got an assist.
The Thunderbirds closed the gap further at 4:21 of the third when Sharp scored another power play goal assisted by Brendan Murphy and Ponak.
Cariboo clung to the lead the rest of the way, with Outhouse coming up with some spectacular stops in the dying minutes with the Thunderbirds pressing for an equalizer.
Thomas gave the Cougars some breathing room with an empty netter with 30 seconds to play.
Gray got things started at 9:07 of the first, taking a backhand feed from Jandric in the low slot and lifting a shot over Tucek. Brendan Moore picked up the other assist.
The Cougars controlled much of the play in the first, outshooting the Thunderbirds 16-6. But of the six saves Outhouse was called on to make, many were difficult. He got a blocker on a rising shot from Jamie Housh off the rush and quickly got across the crease to block an Alex Furlan backhand on a rebound.
The Cougars opened the series with a 3-1 win on Friday, but the Thunderbirds evened the series with a 4-2 win on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars host the South Island Royals in the semifinals next weekend at Kin 1. Game times are:
Friday, March 13 5:00 – 8:00 pm
Saturday, March 14 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Sunday, March 15 8:15 – 11:15am