More like a power failure, one that keeps repeating itself, if youre referring to the Prince George Cougars.
Theyve been in blackout mode practically since the season began when they have the extra skater and the situation grew a bit more desperate Wednesday night at CN Centre while losing 1-0 to the Victoria Royals in the second of a midweek doubleheader.
How bad is it? Consider this: when Ben Walker scored shorthanded 7:40 into the second period Wednesday to put the Royals ahead of the Cougars for the first time in the two-game set, it marked the fourth time the Cats have given up a shortie in 37 chances, one more goal allowed than theyve scored over that span. Their ineptitude with the man advantage is at the bottom of the basement in the WHL, sputtering at an eight per cent success rate.
Patrik Polivka made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season. The 19-year-old netminder, a Czech Republic import, owned the Cougars last season as a WHL rookie with a 5-0-0-0 record, with three of those wins in Prince George. Polivka did not play Tuesday.
The win improved the Royals record to 3-4-0-0, identical to that of the Cougars.
Walker took advantage of a malfunction at the junction when Cougars defenceman Raymond Grewal, the last man back, coughed up the puck to Brandon Fushimi. Walker, a 20-year-old who collected 52 points last season, finished off his breakaway with a forehand-backhand deke and tucked it into the low side just past the post behind Ty Edmonds. Grewal incurred the full wrath of Cougars head coach Mark Holick, who banished Grewal to the bench the rest of the period as the gatekeeper.
The Cougars did have some pushback and had the Royals backed up in their own end through much of the third period but Polivka was there to snuff their chances, never got caught out of position and offering very few rebounds.
We didnt do enough, we didnt score any goals and put 28 pucks on him and Im a little disappointed, we were totally flat, said Holick. They did a pretty good job of clogging the middle of the ice and keeping us to the outside. We had no interest in getting to the inside, it was just not a good effort by us.
We were just not sharp between the ears and just made silly mistakes. On the shorthanded goal, the last guy back was stickhandling at the blueline all by himself and it ends up in our net.
Edmonds, a 17-year-old rookie from Winnipeg, began the game on a three-win streak, having surrendered just two goals over that span. He shut out the Royals 2-0 on Tuesday and was probably the Cougars best player on the ice again Wednesday.
The teams traded chances in an evenly-played scoreless first period. The Cougars didnt get their first shot on goal until the nine-minute mark but it was a dangerous one, a sharp angle drive from Chase Witala that deflected off the stick of Brett Cote, forcing a quick reaction from Polivka. Ten seconds after that save, Victoria broke in on an odd-man rush and Logan Nelsons hard slapshot rang the goalpost. Later in the period, Witala was stopped by Polivka on a breakaway chance.
The Cougars have had great difficulty the past two seasons winning both games when they play host on consecutive nights. That happened just once in 12 occasions last year and once in 13 times two seasons ago. If they hope to make some noise this season, they better figure it out soon. The Cats will be the home team for doubleheaders 15 times this season.
LOOSE PUCKS: D Sam Ruopp returned to the Cats lineup sporting a full face shield. The 17-year-old rookie from Zehner, Sask., suffered a facial injury when he got nailed from behind into the glass by Cole Ully of the Kamloops Blazers in Saturdays game at CN Centre. Ully was handed a two-game suspension by the WHL office on Monday... The Cougars scratches were C David Soltes (lower-body injury), LW Jari Erricson (lower body) C Brad Morrison (healthy), D Tate Olson (healthy).