In a penalty-filled game the Prince George Cougars lost the special teams battle and, ultimately, the game with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Cougars (14-26-2-4) playing their third game of the weekend Sunday in Edmonton dropped a 6-1 decision at Rexall Place as the Oil Kings (31-11-2-3) retook first place in the Western Hockey League's eastern conference. The loss left the Cougars with a 1-2 record on their weekend road trip through Alberta, having lost 5-3 in Calgary on Friday and pulled out a 3-1 win Saturday over the Red Deer Rebels.
After 40 minutes the Cougars were down 3-1 having given up a power-play goal and shorthanded goal to the Oil Kings in a second period that saw a consistent parade to the penalty box by both teams. Despite the deficit the Cougars were still in the game but a goal by Henrik Samuelsson gave the home side a 4-1 advantage and took the life out of the Cats.
"You could tell energy-wise we were done in that last 10 minutes," said Cougars head coach Dean Clark, referring to the fact his team was playing two games in less than 24 hours while the Oil Kings were fresh after having Saturday off.
Colin Jacobs scored his 15th of the season on a Cougars power play to give his team an early 1-0 lead but the Oil Kings would tie the game late in the first period on Trevor Cheek's 20th. A bad penalty for butt-ending by Cougars forward Jordan Tkatch late in the period gave the Oil Kings a four-minute advantage that carried over into the second frame.
In the final minute of the power play, the Oil Kings Curtis Lazur gave his team a 2-1 lead when he batted the puck out of the air into the net - a controversial goal that Clark believed shouldn't have counted.
"That was one penalty we didn't need to take but when they scored it should've been waved off due to goalie interference," said Clark, adding that Brett Zarowny was pushed out of his crease on the play. "I thought the officiating was poor all night."
The Oil Kings ended the night 1 for 5 with the man advantage while the Cougars were 1 for 9.
Edgars Kulda with his fifth of the season made it 5-1 while Samuelsson scored his second of the game on a delayed penalty call.
Zarowny was in net for both the Cougars losses while Mac Engel picked up the win in Red Deer, his hometown, on Saturday. The win was the Cougars first road win since Nov. 23 in Victoria, a winless drought of 10 games.
Zach Pochiro, Dan Gibb and Klarc Wilson scored for the Cougars while Engel turned aside 31 shots in Red Deer. The Rebels opened the scoring on a power-play goal by Joel Hamilton but Pochiro tied the game less than two minutes later converting on a wraparound. Gibb scored the winning goal late in the first period and Wilson potted his first as a Cougar into the empty net to secure the win.
Despite the win the Cougars didn't gain on the seventh place Everett Silvertips (20-26-0-2) or the eighth place Seattle Thunderbirds (17-26-2-1) as both teams secured wins Saturday night, Seattle's 4-3 win over the Portland Winterhawks (37-6-1-1) snapping a 15-game winless streak. The Silvertips moved eight points up on the Cougars after a 4-0 win in Vancouver on Sunday.
Cougars forward Chase Witala has a four-game point streak and has nine points in January.
Clark said the Cougars are starting to play the way they need to in order to get results but need to be more opportunistic and stay out of the penalty box.
The Cougars will have another chance to defeat one of the top eastern conference teams Wednesday when the Prince Albert Raiders (27-15-1-3) visit the CN Centre at 7 p.m.