Cougars need a better effort: Clark
The Prince George Cougars were low on reserves while the red-hot Kelowna Rockets had ammunition to spare.
The result was predictable, a decisive victory for the visitors in Saturday’s Western Hockey League game. Against a depleted home team, the Rockets skated away with an 8-4 victory.
Regardless, the Cougars weren’t using the short-staffed roster as an excuse. Head coach Dean Clark wasn’t impressed with their start to the game or effort in the first half of the second period.
With a pair of goals in the first five minutes, the Rockets led 2-0 after the first period. It went from bad to worse in the middle frame. Tyson Baillie’s power-play marker at 9:05 of the second gave the visitors a 6-0 lead.
“Our second period, the first 10 minutes, we just gave up one good chance after another. It’s tough. Some of the goals weren’t great,” Clark said outside the dressing room minutes after the game. “I felt bad for Mac (Engel, goalie). I would’ve liked to have got him out of there, but (Brett Zarowny) isn’t ready to play yet.”
Zarowny, Engel’s goaltending partner, was hit with the flu bug last week. He dressed Saturday night, but was still sick on the bench. Nathan Warren, the starting goalie on the B.C. Major Midget League’s Cariboo Cougars, sat on the Cougars bench Friday night. Warren wasn’t able to play during the Cougars’ 4-2 loss in the first half of the doubleheader.
While Engel may have played better on Friday night, his teammates weren’t helping him out on Saturday. Clark was hopeful Zarowny would be healthy enough to play this week in Portland. The Cougars began their trip to the U.S. on Sunday evening and were scheduled to open a two-game set with the Portland Winterhawks on Tuesday. The teams play again this evening.
On Saturday evening, Clark said Zarowny was on the road to recovery.
The Rockets outshot the Cougars 39-23 on Saturday night, with Jordan Cooke recording the victory in goal. The Cougars outscored the Rockets in the second half of the contest, and were outshot only 12-11 in the last 20 minutes.
“If we play like that the whole game, it’s probably a different game,” Clark said of the third period. “But certainly when you give up eight goals through two periods you’re not doing a lot of good things defensively.”
Fourteen players on the Rockets recorded at least a point. Baillie (one goal, two assists) and Myles Bell (one goal, two assists) led the visitors with three points each. Five players had two-point games: Jesse Lees (one goal, one assist), Zach Franko (one goal, one assist), J.T. Barnett (one goal, one assist), Dylan McKinlay (two assists) and MacKenzie Johnston (two assists). Tyrell Goulbourne and Colton Sissons also scored.
The Cougars were led by 5-foot-5 forward Jarrett Fontaine. The 17-year-old product of Humboldt, Sask. collected two goals and an assist.
“I just tried to keep it simple and after I got that first goal, I got a little bit of confidence,” Fontaine said. “Second goal, I just banged away and got a lucky one and from there on, I was able to constantly make plays.”
Chase Witala (one goal, one assist) and Caleb Belter (two assists) had two-point games, while Troy Bourke also scored.
200th Game – Saturday marked the 200th WHL regular-season game for Cougars 20-year-old forward Ryan Hanes. Having been a member of the Cougars for a couple of months, Hanes played 181 of those contests with his hometown Kamloops Blazers.
Hanes recorded an assist and dropped the gloves with Goulbourne.
“For me, the most memorable thing would be the players that I’ve played with the whole time, the friends that I’ve made and last year’s seven-game series against Portland,” Hanes said.
Injuries – The Cougars have been plagued by injuries and the flu bug. They hit the ice against Kelowna with only 16 skaters. Last week, the long list of players out of the lineup included: forwards Jari Erricson (upper body) and Jordan Tkatch (upper body); and defencemen Joseph Carvalho (knee), Dallas Ehrhardt (upper body) and Raymond Grewal (upper body).
Like Zarowny, forward Brett Roulston got hit with the flu and wasn’t prepared to play on Saturday.
Clark noted that defenceman Rinalds Rosinskis would be in the lineup in Portland. Rosinskis left the country to represent his native Latvia at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship in Russia. Tkatch, Ehrhardt and Grewal were question marks.
Schedule – After tonight’s game, the Cougars return home for a two-game set against the Kamloops Blazers (Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. at CN Centre).