PRINCE GEORGE, BC – The Prince George Cougars were 98-seconds away from their first home win but the Kelowna Rockets were once again rude guests, coming back to top the Cougars 4-3 in overtime.
Dillon Dube finished off a second consecutive four-point night, scoring the OT-winner with just 43-seconds left in the three-on-three frame. Carsen Twarynski slid the puck over the Calgary Flames draft pick and he broke in alone, putting a shot underneath Tavin Grant’s pad to secure the weekend sweep. Dube was in on all four Rockets’ goals, as he assisted on their first three before his OT heroics.
Prince George battled back to force overtime after trailing 1-0 and 2-0 after the first and second periods respectively. The Cougars rallied in the third period, scoring three unanswered to grab a late lead, before Kelowna came back again to force overtime.
Brogan O’Brien (short-handed), Jackson Leppard and Dennis Cholowski (power-play) found the back of the net for Prince George, who just missed out on picking up their first win at home.
Kole Lind (power-play), Carsen Twarynski and Konrad Belcourt scored in regulation for the Rockets, but it was their rookie netminder who hogged the spotlight. 17-year-old James Porter, in his first WHL start, stopped 42 of 45 shots, including a 25-shot barrage in the second period and was named the game’s third star.
Just like in their previous five games, the Rockets struck first Saturday and just like on Friday, it was on the power-play. Lind carried down the right-wing and picked the corner over Grant’s glove from the faceoff circle at 11:51.
Prince George had a great chance to tie the game inside the final minute of the first period during a power-play, but Dennis Cholowski’s point shot clanked off the post behind Porter.
In the second the Cougars cranked up the pressure, firing 25 shots on the Kelowna net, that after managing just six in the opening period. Prince George had several chances to tie it but they couldn’t solve Porter. Ethan O’Rourke, Josh Maser and Kody McDonald all had great opportunities but the Kelowna netminder managed to turn them all away; at one point the shots were 14-1 in favour of the Cougars.
Kelowna, against the run of play, managed to double their lead eight and a half minutes into the second, as Twarynski cashed in on a breakaway. After the Cougars had a shot blocked at one end, Dube sprung Twarynski on a breakaway at the other end and the 20-year-old flipped a backhand over Grant’s glove at 8:27; that goal coming on just Kelowna’s second shot of the frame.
Sensing his team needed a spark, rookie forward Chance Adrian got into a tussle with Kelowna’s Ted Brennan midway through the middle stanza, and the Cougars’ forward scored the takedown after a spirited bout. That seemed to do the trick, as Prince George turned the tide in the third.
O’Brien got the comeback started three-minutes into the period scoring a short-handed goal to cut the deficit in half. With a man in the box, McDonald had a two-on-one with O’Brien and fed him in front and the Prince George native managed to reach out and tip it in past Porter at 3:03.
Then, near the midway mark, Jack Leppard tied the game at two, after a great individual effort. Cholowski brought the puck in across the blue-line but it was Leppard getting the drop pass and dancing around one defender, before squeezing the puck through Porter’s legs at 9:57. Three-minutes later, the Cougars were at it again.
On a power-play, Cholowski knocked down a clearing attempt in the middle of the Kelowna zone, before spinning and banking his shot off a skate out front and in at 12:55. That 3-2 lead would hold up until the last minute and a half of the game.
Just as Kelowna was going to pull the goalie for the extra-skater, Dube came down the left-wing and took the puck back around the goal, before feeding Konrad Belcourt at the point. The Rockets defenceman blasted a one-timer through a crowd and past Grant at with just 1:38 left on the clock. That goal set the stage for Dube in overtime.