If practice makes perfect, the Prince George Cougars should be much improved in their defensive-zone coverage and penalty-killing this weekend when they host the Kamloops Blazers in a two-game set at CN Centre.
The Cougars were perfectly horrible in both aspects of their game last weekend in Portland and Everett and it showed on the scoreboard, losing 9-2 in Portland and 8-3 in Everett. They allowed nine power-play goals in 18 advantages during the two games.
By Sunday, the Cats had worked out a lot of the kinks and were rewarded with a 2-1 win over the Tri-City Americans.
Head coach Mark Holick has had three days of practice to work with his team before the home-opener against the Blazers Friday night and figures his team will respond accordingly at gametime.
"You can't go into the box 10 or 12 times a night, I don't care what league you're in, you're not giving yourself an opportunity to win," Holick said. " We were 1-1 after one in Portland and 2-2 after one in Everett and in both games early in the second we gave up early goals really quick and that deflates the team. We have to be better in our own end, our goaltending has to be better, and our discipline has to better."
The Cougars have a few banged-up bodies after their tough three-game trip, but should otherwise be healthy to face the Blazers. Winger Zach Pochiro will be back after serving a two-game suspension for charging illegally into Portland defenceman Garrett Harr.
Holick liked the consistent effort he saw in all three games from forwards Jordan Tkatch,Troy Bourke, Klarc Wilson, and rookie Brad Morrison. He also said veterans Brett Roulston and Raymond Grewal responded well in Sunday's game after being purposely left out of the lineup Saturday.
"For me that's a positive, when guys get the message that we're going to go with the best 20 every night and you have to work like hell to get into that 20," said Holick.
n To help celebrate their 20th season in Prince George, the Cougars are hosting a tailgate party Friday starting at 5 p.m., in the CN Centre parking lot. Country artist Rick Stavely will entertain the fans who can enjoy a hot dog pre-game meal with proceeds donated to Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
n The special commemorative jerseys the Cougar players will wear in Friday's game will be auctioned off online during October with proceeds being donated to the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation to play for medical equipment. Bids will be accepted until Oct. 24 at noon, at www.pgcougars.ca.
n Clayton Catellier, the Cougars captain in their inaugural 1994-95 season in Prince George, will be at centre ice Friday to drop the ceremonial first puck. Catellier, a rough and tough defenceman, still ranks as the all-time career penalty minute leader for the Cougars with 800 minutes over four seasons. Now 38, he lives in Winnipeg, where he works as an RCMP officer.