In their toughest test of the WHL preseason the Prince George Cougars put up a good fight but couldn't solve the Edmonton Oil Kings in a second straight game.
The Cougars (3-1) fell 4-1 to the Oil Kings (2-2) giving up three goals, including an empty-netter, in the final seven minutes of the third period, suffering their first loss of the season. The Oil Kings iced a lineup Saturday at CN Centre that included NHL drafted players Griffin Reinhart and Travis Ewanyk, but without Henrik Samuelsson and Michael St. Croix.
The Cats played well against the defending WHL champions but were 0-for-5 on the power play. In Friday's win over a weaker Edmonton team the Cougars were 1-for-9 with the man advantage. Unlike the 2011-12 squad for a lot of the season, this year's Cougars power-play units were able to create chances and pass the puck around the offensive zone.
Rinalds Rosinskis was lost to the Cougars for the last half of the game after a trio of penalties - a five-minute clipping major, a fight and a game misconduct. A few minutes later Alex Forsberg was also tossed from the game after he took a shot to the head, leading to a fight, from Stephen Shmoorkoff.
For the second straight night the Cougars opened the scoring against the Oil Kings.
Troy Bourke gave the Cougars an early 1-0 advantage less than six minutes into the game when he took a pass from Jari Erricson and beat Oil Kings' goaltender Tristen Jarry. But the Oil Kings tied the game at 1-1 when Edgars Kulda tipped a Klarc Wilson shot past Cougars' goalie Devon Fordyce. Everyone in the building could see Kulda's goal coming as the Oil Kings controlled the play deep in the Cougars' end for about a full minute.
The 18-year-old sophomore in the Cats' net stopped all 12 shots the Oil Kings fired his way in the second frame. The stalemate continued until 13:38 of the third period when Edmonton's Stephane Legault jumped on a dribbling puck in the slot and slid it into the open cage beating a sliding Fordyce to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Zach Pochiro had a good chance to tie the game about a minute later when he went around the defender but shot the puck over the net. The missed opportunity allowed the Oil Kings to put the game away on Wilson's second point of the night. Curtis Lazar ensured the win with 45 seconds left scoring on a breakaway into the empty net.
The Oil Kings out shot the Cougars 39-27.
The Cougars wrap up the preseason Friday when the travel down to Kamloops for a game with the Blazers. Prince George begins the regular season Sept. 22 in Everett versus the Silvertips, with their home opener Sept. 28 against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Last cut the deepest: Some Cougars players will have a few restless nights as the team looks to trim its roster by two before Friday's final preseason game. Currently the Cats have two goaltenders, nine defencemen and 15 forwards on the roster. Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson said two players will be "reassigned" this week.