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Americans Cage Cougars 7-3 Behind Holland’s 5-Point Night

By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans

PRINCE GEORGE, BC – Even with star forward Brett Connolly back in the Prince George line-up, the Cougars still could not solve the Tri-City Americans.

Patrick Holland had a career-best 5-point night, Justin Feser picked up three points and the Tri-City Americans (9-3-1-0, 19 pts) blasted the Prince George Cougars (6-5-1-0, 13 pts) 7-3 in front of 2,113 fans at the CN Centre.  With the win, the Americans have now taken 18 of the last 19 match-ups between the clubs, including their last 11 meetings.  Meanwhile, the Cougars saw their three-game winning streak snapped.

But, don’t let the score fool you Americans fans, Friday’s contest was still in doubt headed into the third period.  In a contest that featured two of the highest scoring offenses in the League, it was the defenses’ that stood out through the first 40 minutes.

The squads launched a combined 14 shots on goal in the first period, with Tri-City out chancing the Cougars 9 to 5.  But, the Americans’ resurgent special teams used their first power play opportunity to take an early 1-0 lead.  Just 4:01 into the contest, Holland sent a pass towards Adam Hughesman, who then fired a one-timer past netminder James Priestner.

However, at the midway point of the period, Connolly, who took the penalty that gave Tri-City that successful man-advantage, atoned for his earlier mistake.  Connolly broke into the Tri-City zone, maneuvered around an Americans’ defender and then shelved a shot on rookie goaltender Chris Driedger, tying the game at 1.

The deadlock held until the final minutes of the second period, when Jordan Messier redirected a pass from Holland in the slot to notch his 8th goal of the season and gave the Americans a 2-1 lead.  The bigger story in the second period, though, was the play by Driedger.  Despite facing just six shots in the period, each one was a quality scoring chance that Driedger turned aside with impressive poise for a 16-year-old making his WHL debut.

Clinging to their one-goal lead, the Americans unloaded for a season-high five goals in the third period, breaking the game wide open.  Piggybacking on the momentum Driedger generated in the second period, the Tri-City offense rewarded the rookie with some breathing room by scoring three goals in a 1:35 span.

Just 2:40 into the final period, and out of the right corner, Holland found Feser in the slot, who tipped the puck past Priestner.  Then, 42 seconds later, Hughesman dumped the puck in behind the Cougars’ net, only to have his pass bounce off the boards and right back into the slot.  With Priestner unable to corral the puck, Hughesman regained control, waited for Priestner to commit to the ice and then lifted the puck over the netminder for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.  Finally, at the 4:15 mark, newcomer Zak Stebner forced a Prince George turnover, which eventually ended up on the stick of Feser.  Feser then registered his second goal of the game, giving Tri-City a 5-1 lead and chasing Priestner from net.

The teams then exchanged goals over the final half of the period, as each time the Cougars tried to cut into the deficit, Tri-City always found a response.

At the 8:22 mark of the period, and on a great give-and-go with Taylor Stefishen, Connolly recorded his second goal of the contest.  But, 1:30 later, Holland shoved a backhander between the pads of back-up goaltender Ty Rimmer to make it a 6-2 game.

Then, with 3:50 left in regulation, Daniel Gibb’s shot bounced off the chest of Driedger, where former Americans’ forward Spencer Asuchak was there to bat the puck out of mid-air and past the rookie.  But, two minutes later, Americans’ spark plug Tanner Olstad picked off a Sena Acolatse pass, then carried the puck in and beat Rimmer for his first WHL goal to cap the scoring.

Rimmer finished with 10 saves on 12 shots in 15:45 minutes of relief.  Priestner, who was credited with the loss, stopped 20 of the 25 shots he faced.  Meanwhile, Driedger won his WHL debut behind a solid 23-save effort.  The Americans finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play and a perfect 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.

Tri-City and Prince George will now reset the scoreboard and do it all again tomorrow, Saturday, October 23 at CN Centre.  Game time is 7:00 p.m.  The Americans will be looking for their third straight win overall and six consecutive win inside CN Centre.  Meanwhile, the Cougars will be looking to snap their winless streak vs. Tri-City; something they have not done since October 3, 2007.  Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL WebTV, at the Americans’ home away from home, Kimo’s Sports Café in Richland.  The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 pm.

Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Patrick Holland, Tri-City
2, Brett Connolly, Prince George
3, Justin Feser, Tri-City

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