The Prince George Cougars season will not end on Saturday.
A 4-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday evening means the Cougars will, at worst, host a one-game playoff for the final playoff spot in the WHL Western Conference.
However, the Cougars also need to get just one point from their final two games of the regular season, both against the Blazers, to clinch third place in the B.C. Division and a first-round playoff series with the Victoria Royals. The Cougars host the Blazers tonight at CN Centre before travelling to Kamloops for the final game of the regular season on Saturday.
Coach Mark Holick, though, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said on the post-game radio show. “We’re still trying to clinch the playoff spot.”
The Cougars got goals from Zach Pochiro and Colby McAuley in the first four minutes on Wednesday, then added a second-period goal from Brad Morrison to make it 3-0 before the Blazers got two goals in the third period to make it 3-2. Chase Witala sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
“Our start was good,” Holick said. “I thought we deserved a little better after the first period. The second period was managed well, I thought.
“In the third we bent a little, but we didn’t break.”
Going into the game, Holick and the rest of the coaching staff had put an emphasis on discipline.
“We want to instil a team-first attitude. If that means taking a punch in the face and not fighting back, that’s what we want.”
The Cougars put that into practice Wednesday, as the only penalty they took was a minor in the third period to David Soltes, one of a coincidental pair, meaning the Blazers didn’t have a power-play chance in the game.
The line of McAuley, Koby McDonald and Tyler Mrkonjic not only got a goal, but also did a good job of stopping the Blazers’ top line.
“I thought the McAuley line did a great job tonight,” Holick said.
McAuley knew what they had to do coming in to the game.
“We’re against their top line, so we’ve gotta do all the little things right.”
He said the Cougars knew coming in how close they were to the post-season.
“I think we wanted it more. We all want to be in the playoffs.”
Heading into games tonight, the Cougars have 65 points, four more than the Blazers and Tri-City Americans. The Blazers and Cougars have their weekend doubleheader, while Tri-City has three games left.
If Tri City gets five points in its last three games and the Blazers sweep the Cougars, Tri City would get the second wild-card berth, and the Cougars and Blazers would be tied for third place in the B.C. Division.
That would mean a one-game playoff, which would be in Prince George, since the Cougars would have more wins than the Blazers in the regular season.
Tonight’s game at CN Centre starts at 7 p.m.