The Prince George Cougars weren’t doing any scoreboard watching Wednesday night in Kamloops, but that will probably change this weekend.
A 7-4 loss to the Blazers tightened up the race for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference of the WHL.
With the loss, the Cougars remain at 61 points with five games left in the regular season. The Blazers moved to 59 points, also with five games left. The Tri-City Americans are on 57 points, but have six games left, including one at home against the Cougars tonight. The Vancouver Giants are still in the race, sitting on 55 points with five games to play.
The Cougars game in Kamloops got off to a fast start Wednesday, with the teams accounting for five goals and two fights. The Blazers were up 3-2 after the first and 5-3 after the second.
Speaking on the post-game radio show, assistant coach Michae Hengen said special teams were the difference.
“We went 0 for 6 on the power play and gave up goals on half our shorthanded situations. That’s nowhere near the 110 per cent total we like to see from those two situations.”
He said the coaches would have to figure out why, facing perhaps the biggest game of the season, the Cougars came out flat.
“We made elementary mistakes, mistakes that are uncharacteristic of the way we’ve been playing for the last month and a half. We were making too many mistakes to recover from being behind.
“Making elementary mistakes makes it impossible to win in this league.”
Tomas Andrlik was the only Cougar to have more than one point Wednesday, as he picked up a goal and two assists.
Hengen said the team’s itinerary was a simple one as they prepared for games against Tri-City tonight and in Portland on Saturday.
“Thursday will be a travel day, and there’s a lot of video work to be done, showing the guys the mistakes they made tonight and getting them to make better choices.
“When we’re making the right choice, we’re a very good hockey team.”
As the league heads into the last nine days of the regular season, the schedules for the teams become key. After their two games in the U.S. this weekend, the Cougars are at home to face the Blazers March 18 and 20 before wrapping up the season with a trip to Kamloops on March 21.
Between meetings with the Cougars, the Blazers will play a home-and-home series with Kelowna tonight and Saturday.
After playing the Cougars tonight, Tri-City hits the road to play Spokane Saturday and Seattle on Tuesday. They then host Portland on March 20 and Spokane on March 21 before travelling to Portland to finish the season March 22.
The Vancouver Giants are sort of the odd-man out, as they don’t play any of the teams they are chasing for a playoff spot. The Giants host the Victoria Royals tonight, before travelling to Victoria for games Saturday and Sunday. March 20, they host Kelowna, then finish the regular season on Saturday in Kelowna.