Cougars need help in playoff run
By Alistair McInnis - Prince George Free Press
Published: March 14, 2012 11:00 AM
Updated: March 14, 2012 11:26 AM
The Prince George Cougars’ run at a playoff berth was down to its final breath on Tuesday night.
The Cats entered their road game against the Tri-City Americans knowing a regulation loss would mathematically eliminate them from the Western Hockey League playoffs. They entered the contest last in the 22-team league with 22 wins, 45 losses, zero overtime setbacks and two shootout defeats (22-45-0-2).
Before Tuesday night’s action began, the Cougars had 46 points to sit in the basement of the 10-team Western Conference. They were five points behind the eighth and final playoff spot held by the Victoria Royals (22-41-3-4). Two other teams are bunched in a group of four squads battling for two remaining playoff spots. The seventh-place Everett Silvertips (21-38-2-8) had 52 points, while the ninth-place Seattle Thunderbirds (23-43-1-1) had 48 points.
The Cougars close out their 2011-12 regular season schedule against the Kamloops Blazers in a home-and-home doubleheader, Friday in Kamloops and Saturday at home. Saturday’s CN Centre contest is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Having already secured the B.C. Division title, the Blazers will finish the regular season no lower than second in the conference. They carry a 46-18-2-3 record into tonight’s road game against the Spokane Chiefs.
The Cougars and Americans also met on Sunday to start a split doubleheader in the Tri-Cities. The Americans won that game 5-3, nearly stopping the Cougars’ playoff push by breaking a 3-3 tie with only 49 seconds left in regulation time. Brendan Shinnimin was credited with both the game winner, his 56th, and the empty-net insurance marker 31 seconds before the final buzzer. He added two assists for a four-point game.
Adam Hughesman scored a hat trick for the Americans. Rookie forwards Alex Forsberg and Chase Witala each recorded a goal and an assist for the Cougars, while Alex’s brother Jesse scored the visitors’ other goal.
Drew Owsley took the loss in the Cougars’ goal. Eric Comrie started the game for Tri-City, but was replaced by Ty Rimmer late in the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots. Rimmer turned aside all 17 he saw the rest of the way, as the Americans outshot the Cougars 30-26.