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Dean Clark has made it clear they aren’t satisfied with their position.
“We’re not a team that wants to be a team that plays well and loses,” the Prince George Cougars head coach said during their press conference at CN Centre on Wednesday. “We want a team that gets results and we addressed that this week.”
The Cats put forth a couple of encouraging efforts in a weekend doubleheader at home against the Western Hockey League’s defending champions. They fell short against the Edmonton Oil Kings in a couple of 4-2 defeats, both scoring summaries ending with empty netters. They followed that two-game set with a come-from-behind effort on Sunday, earning a point in a 4-3 shootout defeat on the road against the Vancouver Giants.
The losses are tough to ignore. The Cougars have recorded only two wins in their last 13 games. Of those 11 defeats, nine ended in regulation.
Despite the slide, which includes a current five-game losing streak, the Cats sport seven wins, 10 losses, one overtime setback and two shootout defeats (7-10-1-2) after 20 games. They sit eighth in the 10-team Western Conference, but are only three points behind the sixth-place Victoria Royals (10-10-0-0).
A harder schedule has contributed to the Cougars’ slide. They were able to take advantage of an easier schedule in getting off to a 5-1-1-0 start in their first seven games.
Confidence is crucial to having success, and Clark noted that they’ve lost some of the swagger they had early in the season.
“I think we got a team that on any given night can be successful. We just got to get back to the way we were scoring at the beginning of the season.”
Tonight, the Cougars meet the 2013 Memorial Cup hosts (7 p.m. at CN Centre). The Saskatoon Blades, despite having an automatic berth to the four-team Canadian Hockey League championship tournament in May, have struggled early this season. They sit 11th in the 12-team Eastern Conference at 8-10-0-1, but are 6-3-0-1 in their last 10 games.
“They’re still an explosive team,” Clark said. “They’ve still got a lot of good components there so you have to prepare for a team that’s a Memorial Cup type team.”
The Cougars hope a key acquisition helps them climb back up the standings. With captain Brock Hirsche on the 30-day list with an upper body injury, they’ve brought in another 20-year-old overage forward, Kamloops product Ryan Hanes. The acquisition was announced on Wednesday, Hanes joining the Cougars from the B.C. Hockey League’s Cowichan Valley Capitals.
Hanes, listed at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, played parts of four seasons with his hometown Blazers.
“He’s a gritty guy. He’s a great team guy,” Clark said. “He’ll do whatever the team needs and that’s the kind of player he is. He’s a very, very unselfish guy who had a long career in the Western Hockey League and just one of those guys who will go through the wall and we need that.”
Scratches – Forwards Troy Bourke and Hirsche were injured on Friday evening, the first game of the two-game set against Edmonton. Bourke also suffered an upper body injury, the Cougars monitoring him on a week-to-week basis. The two players and forward Jake Mykitiuk, still recovering from mono, won’t be in the Cougars lineup this weekend.
Schedule – The Cougars will travel to Kamloops for a Saturday evening road game against the Blazers. They’ll return home to meet another Eastern Conference team, the Regina Pats, on Tuesday.
Underager– The Cougars might dress 15-year-old Brad Morrison this weekend. Morrison is a forward on the BC Hockey Major Midget League’s Cariboo Cougars, who are on a bye weekend. He practiced with the Cougars this week.