Sami Moilanen is definitely a cat person. The Seattle Thunderbirds’ forward picked up a hat-trick Friday, in the T-Birds 5-1 win over the Prince George Cougars at the ShoWare Center.
The Finnish forward scored a goal in each period, including a goal of the week candidate in the second, to lead Seattle to their second straight win to start the season. If you include last season, Moilanen now has seven goals in his last five games against the Cougars.
Reece Harsch and Donovan Neuls also scored for Seattle and Matt Berlin stopped 33 of 34 shots to stay undefeated on the young season.
Dennis Cholowski scored his first in PG colours in the third period, on a Cougars’ five-on-three power-play, but it wasn’t enough, as they’re now winless through their first three games. Taylor Gauthier was tagged with the loss, turning aside 17 of 22 shots directed his way.
Harsch opened the scoring three and a half minutes into the game, as Seattle cashed in on an early power-play. With just eight-seconds left in the man-advantage, Harsch snuck down to the far-post from the blue-line and tapped-in a backdoor pass from Zack Andrusiak.
PG pushed back after the early Seattle power-play goal and Aaron Boyd had two good looks to tie it but on both occasions, he struck the post. Those two near misses loomed large.
Late in the opening frame, Moilanen found a bouncing puck at the Cougars’ blue-line, darting past the defenceman on the left-wing, before snapping the puck past Gauthier’s block at 18:34.
It was even a quicker start to the second for Seattle, as Neuls put the T-Birds up 3-0 less than half a minute in. 19-seconds into the stanza, Turner Ottenbreit fired a wrist-shot that Neuls tipped out front and forced it just through Gauthier’s arm.
Seattle kept up the pressure early and tacked on another goal less than two-minutes after Neuls made it 3-0. Moilanen was at it again, picking up the puck on the boards, before cutting to the middle and dragging the puck around a defender, and putting a backhand past Gauthier at 2:13 to make it 4-0.
Ben Coppinger, playing in his first WHL game, had arguably PG’s best scoring chance in the second. After Berlin was caught out of his net after a failed poke-check, Coppinger quickly wired the puck back at the goal but Berlin somehow managed to scramble back and get his arm on Coppinger’s shot.
Cholowski got the Cougars on the scoresheet early in the third period after Seattle ran into penalty-trouble. On an extended five-on-three, it was Cholowski having his point-shot go off the post, off the skate of the goalie and trick back into the net. His first goal with his new tea coming at 1:39.
The Thunderbirds squashed any notion of a comeback attempt late, as Moilanen picked up his hat-trick goal inside the final four-minutes. Nolan Volcan spotted Moilanen in the middle and ripped a one-timer past the goalie’s blocker at 16:10.
Final Score: 5-1 Seattle
Shots: 34-22 Prince George
Power-Plays: Prince George 1-7 Seattle 1-1
Three Stars: 1) Sami Moilanen 2) Matt berlin 3) Reece Harsh.