If the Prince George Cougars want a playoff spot they'll have to earn it.
But it'll be a tough task for the Cougars (18-33-2-6) because of the 13 Western Hockey League they have remaining on their schedule 11 are against teams that are strong contenders to advance to the Memorial Cup and only six of the games are at CN Centre. The task begins today in Edmonton as the Cats face the eastern conference leading Oil Kings (41-12-2-3) in a matinee affair (1 p.m. PST).
Also on the horizon is a visit from defenceman Seth Jones and the Portland Winterhawks (47-9-1-2) this weekend as the Cougars begin a five-game home stand, which also includes visits from the Kamloops Blazers (40-15-2-3) and a weekday doubleheader against the Tri City Americans (33-22-1-2). The Blazers will return Mach 16 as the teams play the second game of a home and home series to wrap up the regular season.
In between the Cougars have a six-game road trip that sees them visit six cities in two countries over eight days that ends the season with games on three straight nights in Kelowna, Kamloops and Prince George.
The Cougars win/loss record against the teams they have remaining on the schedule is a woeful 1-17 with the only victory coming on Oct. 5 when the Kelowna Rockets (42-15-3-1) made a stop in Prince George.
What makes the Cougars task harder is the two teams they're chasing for a playoff spot in the western conference, the Seattle Thunderbirds (20-32-6-1) and the Everett Silvertips (21-34-1-4), have two games remaining against each other. Saturday night the T-birds overtook the Silvertips for seventh place with a 4-1 win in Everett.
The Silvertips are winless in 10 games, having lost eight and earned a loser point twice in shootouts, while the T-birds are 2-4-4 in their last 10 games. The Cougars are 3-5-0-2.
Saturday night the Cougars took a 5-1 lead in Lethbridge over the Hurricanes and then held on for a 5-4 win as Jaimen Yakubowski notched a natural hat trick in the final period to finish with four goals for the 'Canes.
Colin Jacobs had the winning goal and three helpers for the Cougars in Lethbridge, a night after his hat trick in the team's 5-3 loss in Medicine Hat. Klarc Wilson had two of the Cats' goals while Troy Bourke and Zach Pochiro had singles. Bourke and Pochiro also picked up assists and Jari Erricson had two helpers.
Mac Engel was solid in the Cougars' net stopping 35 of the 39 shots he faced while former Cats goalie Ty Rimmer was chased from the Hurricanes net after he gave up five goals on 29 shots. Christopher Tai made six save in the final period in the Lethbridge net.
The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Cougars and improved their February stats to 3-3-0-2. Since Mark Holick stepped in as Cats head coach the team is 4-6-0-2.