A new coach has given some players on the Prince George Cougars a chance at a do-over.
Rindalds Rosinskis recorded his first four Western Hockey League points while Jake Mykitiuk notched his first goal of the season and Colin Jacobs may have played his best hockey in a couple of months for the Cougars in the weekend doubleheader at CN Centre with the Everett Silvertips. After a 3-2 loss Friday the Cougars earned the split with a 4-0 win Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 1,574.
Mark Holick, stepped into his new role as head coach of the Cougars on the weekend and has a 1-1 record.
"It's a chance to push the reset button," said Holick. "We've done that."
The win moved the Cougars (15-28-2-4) within four points of the eighth-place Seattle Thunderbirds (18-28-3-1), while pulling within nine points of the seventh-place Everett Silvertips (21-26-1-2) in the western conference. Prince George won the season series with the Silvertips 3-1.
"We played similar games both nights but it came down to tonight that our goalie was a little better than theirs and we were able to get the win," said Mykitiuk about Mac Engel's 21-save shutout.
Silvertips goalie Austin Lotz had 39 shots directed his way a night after facing 42 pucks in his team's 3-2 win. The 17-year-old arrived in Prince George after earning the Silvertips a point in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime loss in Kamloops where the Blazers fired 69 shots on him.
The Cougars have a game in hand and two games head to head with the Thunderbirds, staring Tuesday night in Seattle - a win pulls them within two points of the final playoff spot.
"I just got here man," laughed Holick about the playoff implications. "It's a must-effort, I know that. It's where we want to have a strong effort and we'll let the guys sort it out from there. Stay disciplined, manage pucks and be physical and do what we can around the net.
"Right now I don't want to put any sort of pressure on these guys," he added. "We just want our guys to control their effort and control their emotions and get down there and play some hockey." The two-game trip which concludes Wednesday in Tri City against the Americans (28-18-1-2) will allow Holick some time to get to know the players he just met last Wednesday after replacing Dean Clark as head coach of the Cougars.
"I need some name tags here on the front of their helmets," said Holick. "I'm looking forward to getting away and spending some time with the guys and having a few laughs. It's always fun to get out on the road and get to know each other."
In addition to Mykitiuk potting his first goal of the season, Jacobs recorded his 16th and 17th goals, leading the Cougars, while rookie Zach Pochiro added a late power-play goal to complete the scoring. Rosinskis had three assists for the Cats.
"He was really alert coming out of the penalty box there and he made a really nice pass and put it right on the tape of my stick and I was fortunate enough to bury it," said Mykitiuk. "He's really found his game lately after the world juniors he's been awesome."
Rosinskis played with Latvia in the world junior tournament.
Special teams have been problematic for the Cougars all season - they were 22nd in the league with the man advantage and 18th on the penalty kill entering Saturday's game - though they had improved in shorthanded situations recently. Saturday the Cougars killed off all four penalties they were assessed while scoring twice in five opportunities on the power play.
"We've only been on the ice for 75 minutes and there's a ton of stuff we didn't even touch on - our special teams for instance," said Holick. "They've worked hard with a lot of stuff on the board and a little bit of video work."
When the Cougars return home from their two-game road swing they'll play five straight games at CN Centre, starting with a weekend doubleheader against the Victoria Royals (26-17-1-2) before the Red Deer Rebels (25-20-4-2) make their lone appearance in Prince George this season Feb. 6 and the last-place Vancouver Giants (12-37) visit Feb. 8-9.
It's a favourable couple of weeks for the Cougars in their quest to reel in the T-birds.
"Play hard and try and execute what we're trying to get through and we'll see where it ends up," said Holick. "If we get in the playoffs great that's our goal."
Notes: Brock Hirsche will follow former Cougars coach Dean Clark out of Prince George this week. The Cougars former captain, turned assistant coach after a shoulder injury forced him to hang up his skates in December, has elected to return to his home in Lethbridge.