Cougars still out of playoff spot
Comparing a Friday victory to a Saturday defeat, Prince George Cougars head coach Mark Holick kept his response short.
“Last night we worked. Tonight we didn’t. It’s simple, as simple as that.”
While doubleheader splits are normal, getting two of four points on this weekend was unacceptable. Not only were the Cougars playing the only team with a worse record this Western Hockey League season, but they had the advantage of their home rink.
The basement-dwelling Vancouver Giants rebounded from a 6-4 defeat on Friday to down the Cougars 4-1 on Saturday at CN Centre.
The Cougars carry a record of 17 wins, 31 losses, two overtime setbacks and six shootout defeats (17-31-2-6) into tonight’s contest in Red Deer. They visit the Rebels to begin a four-game Central Division road swing in Alberta. They resume the trip on Friday night against the Medicine Hat Tigers before meeting the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday evening. The swing ends on Monday with a special matinee game against the Edmonton Oil Kings during Alberta’s Family Day holiday.
The Cougars lost to the Rebels 4-3 in a shootout at CN Centre on Wednesday. They defeated the Rebels 3-1 in Red Deer on Jan. 19.
“We got a win in that rink obviously before,” Holick said following their loss to the Giants. “But like I said, right now I’m concerned about what happened here today and how we’re going to fix, and we’re certainly going to get after it tomorrow.”
In a matinee game on B.C.’s inaugural Family Day, the Giants lost at home to the Portland Winterhawks 8-3 on Monday. The Giants sport a 14-42-0-0 mark. At the other end of the standings, the Winterhawks lead the Western Conference and 22-team league with a 46-8-1-2 record.
Brett Kulak, Cain Franson and Travis McEvoy each had a goal and an assist for the Giants on Saturday night. Jakob Stukel also found the back of the net for the visitors. Cougars forward Jari Erricson opened the scoring at 8:31 of the first period.
The Giants outshot the Cougars 36-24, including 21-6 in the second period. Payton Lee recorded the win in net, while Mac Engel took the loss in goal for the Cougars.
Special teams provided a boost to the Giants in Saturday’s win. The visitors finished 2-for-6 on the power play, while the home team couldn’t score on six opportunities with the extra man.
“We just didn’t battle. We didn’t battle anywhere. We didn’t compete anywhere on the ice, and you got to respect the game, you got to respect the league and we’re just not ready yet on our development obviously,” Holick said.
In ninth place, the Cougars sit two points back of the Seattle Thunderbirds (19-32-5-1), who occupy the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. The Cats are five points behind the seventh-place Everett Silvertips (21-31-1-4).
Schedule – Saturday’s loss to the Giants ended a five-game homestand for the Cougars. They finished the stretch with a 2-1-0-2 mark.
The Cougars’ final 12 regular-season games are against conference opposition, meaning the Oil Kings are the last Eastern Conference team they’ll play this season. They have another five-game homestand coming up, with home games scheduled against Portland (Feb. 22 and 23), the Kamloops Blazers (March 1) and Tri-City Americans (March 4 and 5).
After a six-game road trip, the Cougars will conclude their schedule against the Blazers at CN Centre on March 16.
Milestone – Saturday’s contest marked the 250th career WHL game for Cougars defenceman Dan Gibb. The team’s captain, Gibb has 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in 56 games this season.
Attendance – Announced attendance at CN Centre for the two weekend games was 1,695 on Friday and 1,733 on Saturday.
Ceremony – Before puck drop on Saturday, a special pre-game ceremony was held to honour the Cougars’ billets and parents.