Don't look now, but the Prince George Cougars are finding ways to win hockey games.
Sure it's only the preseason. What happens in early September means nothing in March when the season ends. But after a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night at CN Centre the Cats are now 3-0 in exhibition play. Considering how starved they've been for victories the past two seasons, that's cause for celebration in Cougarville.
Brett Roulston, with two goals, and Brad Morrison, Chase Witala and Tyler Mrkonjic, each with singles, and Jansen Harkins, with three assists, spiced the Cougar offence. Cole Benson spoiled Bret Zarowny's shutout bid late in the third period. Other than the near-constant penalty parade in the third period there wasn't much for the partisan crowd of 665 to complain about. The scoreboard pretty much told the tale.
Alex Forsberg set up the Cougars first goal on a power play 6:19 into the first period, spotting Morrison unguarded at the side of the net for an easy tap-in.
The Cougars padded the lead on a pretty three-way pass play instigated by Morrison. The 17-year-old Prince George/Kelowna minor hockey product fed Harkins, who used his peripheral sight to lay a perfect feed on the stick of Roulston in the deep slot.
The Cougars aggressive forechecking had to be pleasing to the eyes of the coaching staff and it led to a few great scoring chances. Leading 2-0 halfway through the second period, second-year D-man Sam Ruopp of Zehner, Sask., forced a turnover with a thunderous hit along the boards that sprung Jordan Tkatch on a partial breakaway. The third-year Cougar's shot was stuffed by 16-year-old goalie Patrick Dea, by far the busiest goalie of the night as his team was outshot 40-21.
Zarowny, in his first game since winning the starting job in the Cougar net, was at his best in the third period. He made a couple sharp saves with the Cougars two-men short and had plenty of help from big-bodied Raymond Grewal, who delivered a yeoman effort all night on defence.
Zarowny made the first save but couldn't back in position to stop the rebound fired in by Benson with 5:15 left to play.
The same teams meet again tonight at 7 at CN Centre.
LOOSE PUCKS: The Cougars have released 18-year-old D Michael Mylcreest. The native of Gilroy, Calif., played two seasons for the Cats, collecting nine assists in 116 games. Mylcreest is the third veteran cut this week by the Cougars, who also cut G Mac Engel, 20, and 18-year-old F Jarrett Fontaine... The Calgary Flames have suspended F Ryan Howse for failing to report to training camp. Howse, a a 22-year-old native of Prince George, was a third-round pick of the Flames in the 2009 NHL entry draft, 74th overall. The former Chilliwack Bruin split last season between the AHL Abbotsford Heat and the ECHL Utah Grizzlies... Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry locked up a three-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2013. Jarry posted an 18-7-0 record with a 1.61 goals-against average with .936 save percentage and six shutouts last year as a 17-year-old.
Friday WHL preseason summary
Oil Kings 1 at Cougars 5
1. Prince George, Morrison 1 (Forsberg, Gonek) 6:19 (pp)
Penalties -- Ralph Edm (interference) 2:41, Caroll Edm (roughing), Tkatch PG (roughing) 4:45, Eller Edm (boarding) 5:20, Eller Edm (charging) 12:47.
2. Prince George, Roulston 1 (Harkins, Morrison) 3:21 Penalties -- Soltes PG (hooking) 0:21, Grewal PG (tripping) 4:49, Walter Edm (tripping) 8:07, Mills Edm (delay of game) 9:35, Morrison PG (tripping) 10:43, Shmoorkoff Edm (cross-checking), Broiwn Edm (roughing), Witala PG (roughing) 13:54, Harkins PG (goaltender interference) 14:43, Irving Edm (roughing), Gonek PG (roughing), Soltes PG (roughing) 19:23..
3. Prince George, Witala 1 (Carvalho, Harkins) 8:23 (pp)
4. Prince George, Roulston 2 (Grewal, Harkins) 12:56
5. Edmonton, Benson 2 (Eller, Shmoorkoff) 14:45 (pp)
6. Prince George, Mrkonjic 1 (Ruopp, Ferguson)18:33
Penalties -- PG (bench, too many men, served by Morrison) 3:03, Gonek PG (high-sticking) 5:53, Irving Edm (interference) 6:57, Pollock Edm (holding) 7:40, Walter Edm (fighting, game misconduct), Morrison PG (fighting, game misconduct) 8:26, Lishchynsky PG (roughing) 8:58, Mills Edm (roughing), Tkatch PG (roughing) 9:29, Pollock Edm (roughing), Mykitiuk PG (roughing), Bolduc PG (roughing) 9:47, Shmoorkoff Edm (high-sticking) 11:28, Koep Edm (hooking) 12:17, Mykitiuk PG (cross-checking) 14:10, Irving Edm (roughing, fighting, game misconduct), Gonek PG (roughing, fighting, game misconduct), Ferguson PG (roughing), Bolduc PG (roughing) 14:59, Mayo Edm (tripping) 15:07, Ralph Edm ( high-sticking) 17:27, Roulston PG (cross-checking) 18:14.
Shots on goal by:
Goal -- Edmonton: Dea; Prince George, Zarowny.
Power plays (goals-chances) -- Edm: 1-11; PG: 3-11.
Attendance -- 665.