The Cariboo Cougars and Williams Lake’s Trey Thomas and Daine Dubois are headed back to the BC Major Midget League championship after gutting out at 6-3 win over the Vancouver Northwest Giants in a thrilling Game 3 of the best-of-three semifinal series Sunday in Prince George.
The Cougars never trailed in the decisive game, but the Giants were never far behind either.
It wasn’t until Thomas scored into an empty net with 42 seconds left that the Cougars were able to breathe easy.
Thomas and Hunter Floris each scored twice in the win and Marcus Allen was outstanding in net, turning aside a series of Giant comeback attempts in the final two periods. He finished the day with 24 saves. Jesse Makaj made 23 stops for the Giants
Mason Richey and Ty Kolle also scored for the Cougars, who advance to the league final for a third straight season.
Gianni Fairbrother scored twice for Vancouver Northwest, with Kent Johnson also lighting the lamp.
With the score tied 2-2 early in the second the Cougars took the lead for good when Dubois found Thomas open in front. The pair, who have been a potent connection all season, made good again. The goal came at 6:42, moments after a Giants’ penalty expired.
Kolle gave the Cougars their second two-goal lead of the day at 11:07 as he took a pass from Jeremy Gervais in the high slot and beat Makaj. Myles Mattila also got an assist.
The Giants didn’t go away as they controlled much of the play in the latter half of the middle stanza and scored a buzzer beater with six tenths of a second left in the period. Fairbrother side stepped a check and scored his second of the game from Dominic Davis.
That was as close as the Giants would get.
The Cougars once again went up by two goals at 1:30 of the third. Floris tipped home a Jonas Harkins point shot to make it 5-3. Kolle also picked up an assist.
The Giants generated chances throughout the third, but Allen turned them all aside. No save was bigger then when he stretched out to rob Matteo Pecchia alone in front.
Dubois and Tyler Maser set up Thomas’ empty netter in the final minute as the crowd breathed a sigh of relief.
The Cougars came out flying, with Richey giving the home side the lead at 2:02 of the first period. He was first to a puck in the Giants’ zone, beat his man in front of his net and fired it past Makaj. Trey Thomas and Daine Dubois got the assists.
Floris extended the lead at 15:23. Jeremy Gervais intercepted a Giants’ clearing pass at the blueline, found Floris in front and the Vanderhoof product made no mistake.
In the second period it was the Giants who came out the gate quickly, scoring twice in the first five minutes to knot the game 2-2.
Ninety seconds into the period Johnson made a great move to get past a Cougars defenceman and fired a shot over Allen. Hudson Schandor and Mackenzie Gray got the assists.
Fairbrother got his first of the game on the power play at 4:16, firing through traffic from the point. Trevor Longo got the assist.
The Cougars host the final series this weekend in Prince George with Game 1 set for 3:15 p.m. Friday at Kin 1.