If they didn’t know it before they rolled into Kamloops, they certainly know it now.
The Prince George Cougars have some work to do.
The Kamloops Blazers laid an 8-3 pasting on the Cougars Saturday night, which dropped the Cats’ Western Hockey League record to 0-3-0-0.
They were never in this one. They trailed 5-0 until Jonny Hooker finally got a puck in behind goalie Dylan Garand with one second left in a power play and the Cougars reduced the gap to 5-2 about a minute later when Ethan Samson scored on another power play but they didn’t come close to matching the competitive drive of the two-time defending B.C. Division champions.
“The biggest thing is it’s a group that’s learning how to win against a team that knows how to win and that was a real smack-in-the-face type of lesson,” said Cougars associate coach Josh Dixon, in the postgame broadcast.
“I hope that stings for a little while and that motivates us to take the next step in terms of our defensive play, our sacrifice level, our battle and compete level, starting in front of our goaltender all the way put for 200 feet. There was no hiding out there tonight.”
Fraser Minten staked Kamloops to an early lead on delayed penalty 3:52 in, his first of two goals in the game. Logan Stankoven was the big gun for the Blazers and the Kamloops captain finished with two goals and two assists, much to the delight of a partisan Sandman Centre crowd of 2,957.
Stankoven went glove side on Tyler Brennan to put his team up 2-0 late in the first period as the Blazers built a 17-7 edge in shots through 20 minutes. Caden Bankier touched off a three-goals-in-three-minutes outburst to start the second period when he popped in a rebound and Daylan Kuefler found the five-hole behind Brennan just before Marko Stacha’s shot chased the 18-year-old goalie from the game after he’d made 20 saves.
Sixteen-year-old Ty Young replaced Brennan 8:38 into the second period and stopped 16 of the 19 shots he faced. Kamloops outshot Prince George 44-35.
“You talk about bright spots, I think that’s got to be the brightest spot for (Young) to jump off the bench cold like that, get thrown into the fire and totally bail teammates out time and time again,” said Dixon. “That’s a great experience for him and I know one he’s going to be able to take a step forward from. I’m really proud of him, he had an outstanding training camp and exhibition (season) and carried that through tonight.”
The Cougars scored on three of their eight power-play chances. Kamloops went 2-for-6 with the extra man.
Cougars winger Craig Armstrong collected his first goal of the season late in the third period, after Tye Spencer made it a 7-2 count. Stankoven’s second of the game sealed the victory for the Blazers (2-0-0-0).
Prince George was still reeling from a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Giants Friday night in Langley.
The Cats, who started the season at home with a 5-4 loss to Kamloops, return to CN Centre ice Saturday night and Sunday afternoon to face the Victoria Royals. In a scheduling quirk brought on by the pandemic, which forces WHL teams to play within their divisions until mid-November, the Royals and Cougars will be each other’s opponents for their next six games.