Perhaps a change in climate and latitude can provide a helping hand to the Prince George Cougars.
Since snapping their franchise-record 17-game losing skid last Friday (Feb. 22) in Kamloops, the Cats are struggling once again to get back into the win column.
They’re coming off a mid-week raid by the Spokane Chiefs at the CN Centre, losing 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday (Feb. 26) and 7-1 on Wednesday (Feb. 27), and haven’t won a game at home since Jan. 12 against Kelowna.
Now the Cougars find themselves on the road again, but good news, it’s the final doubleheader while away from home for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
Bad news, they’re up against the Victoria Royals, the second best team in the B.C. Division and are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 games.
The provincial capital is hoping to clinch a playoff spot this weekend as Vancouver is the only team to have done so in the division, albeit by a huge landslide with 41 wins and being nationally-ranked.
In their last game against each other, former Cougar Kody McDonald put the nail in the coffin on a 5-4 loss for Prince George, stunning fans in his old barn with two goals in regulation, which included the tying goal with three minutes left, and the shootout winner.
So perhaps Prince George can play for pride and be the spoiler in terms of dropping the Royals’ chances at having home-ice advantage for the first round of the Western Hockey League (WHL) playoffs, but they’ll have to start communicating on offense in order for that to happen.
Victoria has won six of the seven meetings against the Cats this season, nine games between the two clubs altogether.
Prince George’s only win came on Dec. 2, 2018 when the Cougars defeated the Royals 5-3 on Un-Teddy Bear Toss night; Vladislav Mikhalchuk, Josh Maser, and Ilijah Colina each had multi-point performances, while Taylor Gauthier stopped 21 of 24 shots between the pipes.
In their tilts with Spokane, the Cougars appeared to be quiet when it came to calling plays on the ice, which could likely be due to the fact they’ve been short on staff.
Defenceman and potential NHL draft pick Cole Moberg is listed as week-to-week due to an upper-body injury, Ethan Browne is also in the same scenario injury-wise; Ilijah Colina, a critical playmaker, is away on a personal leave, and Ryan Schoettler missed the last game due to an illness.
Whether anyone of them will be back in the line-up tonight is a question mark, but regardless, the Cougars should be looking to improve communication on the ice if they want to be a better team with what little that remains.
But despite all the negatives, can the Cougars embrace the opportunity to snap another losing streak against one of their biggest rivals at such an important time of year?
Prince George is 1-4 in their last five games with an overall record of 17-37-5-3, last place in the WHL’s Western Conference.
Both games this weekend are at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria, starting at 7:05 p.m tonight (March 1) and tomorrow (March 2).
PRINCE GEORGE’S TOP FIVE
- Vladislav Mikhalchuk = 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists)
- Josh Maser = 37 points (26 goals, 11 assists)
- Cole Moberg = 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists)
- Ethan Browne = 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists)
- Ryan Schoettler = 30 points (four goals, 26 assists)
VICTORIA’S TOP FIVE
- Kaid Oliver = 49 points (27 goals, 22 assists)
- Scott Walford = 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists)
- D-Jay Jerome = 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists)
- Kody McDonald = 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists)
- Igor Martynov = 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists)