The losing skid has now hit five for the Prince George Cougars.
This time the Cougars fell 6-3 to the Tri City Americans in the only Monday night game in the Western Hockey League. The loss leaves the Cougars (18-38-2-6) eight points out of the eighth, and final, playoff spot in the western conference. It also used up one of three games the Cougars had in hand on the Everett Silvertips (23-37-2-4) and Seattle Thunderbirds (22-36-7-1).
The Cougars are also only four points ahead of the last-place Vancouver Giants (19-46-2) in the race for the top draft pick, likely the record-setting forward Tyler Benson of the SSAC Lions of the Alberta bantam league.
With the win the Americans (39-23-1-2) moved ahead of the Spokane Chiefs (39-24-2) into fourth place in the western conference.
The Cougars best player was 15-year-old Jansen Harkins, playing in his fifth WHL game. Harkins was robbed of his first goal early in the first period by Tri City goalie Troy Trombley, who slid across his crease and threw his leg up in the air to make a pad save.
Seconds later Harkins drew the appreciation of the crowd when he made a solid neutral ice hit on an Americans player. In the second period, Harkins made a nifty pass through the slot to set up Troy Bourke, but the Cougars alternate captain couldnt bury it.
The Cougars opened the scoring on defenceman Marc McNultys eighth goal of the season during an early power play. Cats goalie Brett Zarowny picked up the first assist of his WHL career.
But the Americans responded with three goals in 66 seconds to take a 3-1 lead. Justin Feser started it the onslaught with an unassisted power-play goal before Rankin gave the visitors its first lead of the game when he jumped on a loose puck in the slot and put it in the open net. Mitch Topping notched his 13th goal of the season 30 seconds later to go up 3-1.
Before the period was over Brett Roulston had his eighth goal of the season to pull the Cougars within one at 3-2.
Lucas Nickles restored the Americans two-goal lead when he broke down the left wing and blasted the puck past Zarowny. Tri City made it 5-2 on a delayed penalty 87 seconds later on Rankins second of the game and 27th of the season.
Jari Erricson pulled the Cougars back to within two at 5-3 early in the third period but the Americans came right back on a Beau McCue goal that bounced in off the top of Zarownys glove.
Trombley (7-1) earned the win in the Americans net while Zarowny (9-15) took the loss. It was Zarownys first full game since suffering a concussion during a game Jan. 30 in Tri City. The 17-year-old goalie started a game for the Cougars against the Portland Winterhawks at the start of the teams five-game home stand but was yanked after giving up three goals early in the opening period.
The Cougars and Americans play again tonight, 7 p.m., at CN Centre before the Cats embark on a six-game road trip.