With only 16 skaters it was anything but a sweet night for the Prince George Cougars in their rematch against the high-flying Kelowna Rockets.
The Rockets extended their Western Hockey League win streak to six games Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 1,759 at CN Centre jetting out of town after claiming an 8-4 win, a sweep of the two-game series and handing the Cougars their fifth straight loss. In seven games between the B.C. division rivals this season the Cougars are 1-6.
Cougars head coach Dean Clark said despite having six regular players on the infirmary list the team needs to pick up its overall effort.
No matter how many guys youve got its just not acceptable, said Clark. We had some guys that didnt play well and thats disappointing.
The Rockets (29-10-1-1) had a 1-0 lead on their first shot on Cougars goalie Mac Engel and led 2-0 after only three shots but it was in the second period when the Cougars (12-22-1-4) came apart at the seams as the visitors potted six goals on 16 shots.
In the first 10 minutes we just gave up chance after chance after chance, said Clark about the Rockets extending their lead to 6-0 before the midway point of the game. We didnt help Mac a lot and Mac didnt make some saves [he needed to].
Myles Bell and Tyson Baillie each had a goal and two helpers for the Rockets as eight different players found the twine behind Engel - who made some tough saves but gave up weak goals. Other Rockets goal scorers were Tyrell Goulbourne (5), Zach Franko (17), JT Barnett (8), affiliate player Justin Kirland (1), Colton Sissons (14) and Jesse Lees (3). Bell now has 26 goals and 59 points this season while Baillie has 14 goals and 28 points.
The lone bright spot for the Cougars was the play of 17-year-old Jarrett Fontaine who broke Jordon Cookes shutout bid with back-to-back goals in the second period to reduce the Rockets advantage to 6-2.
After I got that first goal I got a little bit of confidence, said Fontaine. With my second [power play] goal, I just banged away and got a lucky one and from there on I was able to confidently make plays.
The goals were Fontaines fifth and sixth of the year and he added an assist on Troy Bourkes sixth goal of the season late in the second period giving the product of Humboldt, Sask., 11 points. It was 8-3 after 40 minutes.
He certainly has the biggest heart on our team, between him and [Dan] Gibb, said Clark. Fonzie always gives an honest effort every time.
Chase Witala had the lone goal of the third period when he buried his eighth of the season behind Cooke on a power play. Cooke has produced 13 consecutive wins in the Rockets net.
The Rockets were 2 for 3 with the man advantage while the Cougars were 2 for 4.
Out of the lineup for the Cougars were defencemen Dallas Ehrhardt (shoulder), Rinalds Rosinskis (world juniors), Joseph Carvalho (knee), Raymond Grewal (mild concussion) and forwards Jari Erricson (concussion), Jordan Tkatch (upper body) and Brett Roulston (sick).
Defenceman Sam Ruopp suited up in his fourth consecutive game on the Cougars blueline as a fifth defender.
Its kind of a tough situation to put him through but with the numbers that we had he had to play a lot and in a lot of situations, said Clark about the 16-year-old call up from the midget Regina Pat Canadians. With what he had to do I was impressed with what he did.
Cougars goalie Brett Zarowny was the fans choice for player of the month in December. In six games the 17-year-old posted a 3-3 record, including picking up his second WHL shutout in a 6-0 win over the Vancouver Giants. In three games during the week of Dec. 16, Zarowny had a 2-1 record, a 1.00 goals against average and a .968 save percentage.
After missing Fridays 4-2 loss to the Rockets due to illness, Zarowny was back on the bench for the Cougars the next night but was too ill to relieve Engel in the net during the Rockets six goal second frame.
Former Cariboo Cougars defenceman Josh Connolly notched his first WHL goal Friday night in his Kamloops Blazers 6-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Another former MML Cat, goalie Jared Rathjen, received his first start in the Giants' net in Saturday's 4-0 loss in Edmonton to the Oil Kings. Rathjen was traded by the Victoria Royals to the Giants last week. Madison Bowey, the Rockets 2013 NHL draft eligible defenceman, played in his 100th WHL game Saturday.
The Cougars bus pulled out of Prince George on Sunday as the team trekked to Portland for a pair of games, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Winterhawks. Game time both nights is 7 p.m.