Prince George Cougars forward Greg Fraser tries breaking past Spokane Chiefs defenceman Corbin Baldwin, left, during Friday night's Western Hockey League game at CN Centre.
Cougars still alive into home stretch
By Alistair McInnis - Prince George Free Press
Published: March 06, 2012 3:00 PM
Updated: March 06, 2012 3:33 PM
The Prince George Cougars snapped a seven-game Western Hockey League losing streak on Saturday night at home.
Tuesday night, the visiting team tried to stop its own four-game skid.
Two of four teams battling for the final two playoff spots in the 10-team Western Conference, the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Cougars hit the CN Centre ice Tuesday evening to start a doubleheader. The same two teams play tonight, 7 p.m. at CN Centre.
When Tuesday’s WHL action began, the Cougars were last in the league at 20-43-0-2. The Thunderbirds were ninth in the conference with a 21-41-1-1 record. The Everett Silvertips (19-37-1-8) held the eighth and final playoff spot with 47 points, one behind the seventh-place Victoria Royals (21-39-2-4) and five ahead of the Cougars.
On Saturday evening, the Cougars edged the Spokane Chiefs 4-3 in overtime. Defenceman Cody Carlson scored the game winner, blasting a slap shot from the point past Chiefs goalie Eric Williams 18 seconds into overtime. The goal came with the man advantage as the Cats finished 3-for-5 on the power play.
“Both those are huge,” Cougars head coach Dean Clark said of this week’s doubleheader against Seattle. “I’m glad we kind of won the way we did (on Saturday night). I think that should give us some confidence going in. Certainly we have to follow this up and go on a little bit of a roll. We’re probably going to need some help, but certainly this is a start.”
A win tonight would keep the Cats’ slim playoff hopes alive, but also mark a positive on what’s been an unsuccessful eight-game homestand, which began with a pair of losses against the Royals on Feb. 24 and 25. After finishing on the wrong end of another home-ice doubleheader sweep, losses to the Eastern Conference’s Medicine Hat Tigers on Feb. 28 and 29, the Cougars salvaged a split against Spokane. The Chiefs downed the Cougars 4-1 on Friday night.
“I think the effort was good by everybody. I think we had some good contributions from everybody,” Clark said of Saturday night’s win. “I think that obviously the power play was very key for us (Saturday). I thought we really snapped it around and did some really good things with it and we shot the puck more, which we need to do.”
Comments from the Chiefs’ bench boss were less positive, not surprising given the points differential between the two teams. At 35-22-5-3, Spokane is involved in a tight battle with the Vancouver Giants (37-25-1-3) for fourth in the conference.
“Disappointing the way we played tonight,” head coach Don Nachbaur said. “Whether we underestimated Prince George, hats off to them, they gave a full effort. I thought we were horrible.”
Forward Troy Bourke was named first star of the game, and led the Cougars offensively with three helpers, including the first assist on Carlson’s game winner.
“Reid (Jackson) gave it to me on a nice pass and I knew that Cody was opening her up for a one (timer),” Bourke said of the overtime goal. “I tried to freeze the goalie a little bit and slide the puck over, and obviously Cody made an unbelievable shot, put her right in a perfect spot, and he did actually do most of the work there.”
Bourke’s linemates in the game, Chase Witala and Celeb Belter, also scored power-play markers. Defenceman Linden Springer also scored the home team, while Mitch Holmberg, Corbin Baldwin and Dominik Uher replied for the Chiefs.
Drew Owsley recorded the victory between the pipes, the goalie turning aside 34 of 37 shots his way. Williams stopped 24, as the Chiefs outshot the Cats 37-28.
Close to home – Spokane’s roster includes 20-year-old McBride product Dylan Walchuk, who had his own cheering section on the weekend.
Schedule – After the Cougars’ eight-game homestand wraps up tonight, four of their five remaining regular-season games will be away from home. They play road games against the Kelowna Rockets (Friday), the Tri-City Americans (Sunday and Tuesday) and Kamloops Blazers (March 16) before concluding a home-and-home doubleheader with the Blazers, March 17 at CN Centre.
Return - Nachbaur, who was born in Kitimat in 1959, spent several of his childhood years in Prince George and is a product of the city’s minor hockey association.
Ceremony – Parents and billet families of each of the Cougars’ players were recognized in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday night.