Skill finally wore down determination.
For long stretches of a weekend doubleheader, the Prince George Cougars kept the high-powered Vancouver Giants from exploding offensively. The 'boom' came in the second period during Saturday night's WHL game at CN Centre.
The Giants, the first-place team in the B.C. Division, scored five unanswered goals in the middle frame and eventually handed the last-overall Cougars a 7-2 loss. The Cats actually led 2-1 after the first period but a goal by Tomas Vincour pulled the Giants into a 2-2 tie early in the second. About five minutes later, while the Cougars were on a power play, newly-acquired Prince George defenceman Petr Senkerik fanned on an attempted pass inside the Vancouver blueline. The Giants grabbed the loose puck, broke up ice, and turned Senkerik's mistake into a goal by Brent Henke. Vancouver had the lead and the momentum and proceeded to bury its weaker opponent.
"We just didn't compete in the second period at all -- didn't make any passes, any plays, and didn't do anything to try and correct it," said Cougars head coach Dean Clark. "It wasn't just one guy. It was our whole team. That's not acceptable for our group."
Giants coach Don Hay wasn't satisfied with the effort of his players in the opening 20 minutes but gave them credit for turning things around.
"I didn't think our urgency was at the point where we needed it in the first period but we picked it up in the second and we really worked hard and we got rewarded for working hard," he said.
On Friday, the Giants beat a scrappy Cougars team 3-1. Both games were physical and chippy, and the pot of emotions finally boiled over during Saturday's third period. With Vancouver ahead 6-2, a line brawl broke out in the Giants' zone. All 10 players received fighting majors and eight of them -- four from each team -- were also handed game misconducts. Originally, Jesse Forsberg of the Cougars paired up with Brett Lyon of the Giants, and Prince George's Jaroslav Vlach danced with Vancouver's Dillon Scholton. Then, everybody else on the ice -- with the exception of P.G. goalie Kyle Jahraus and Vancouver stopper Mark Segal -- found partners.
"I think when you play back-to-back games, the intensity level gets ramped up and it gets heated," Hay said. "The five-on-five (brawl) was the result of the two games and teams playing hard against each other."
One Giant who put himself in the bad books of the Cougars was Lance Bouma. Three times in the game, he plowed into Jahraus, currently the only healthy goalie on the Prince George roster. Clark said the Cougars have notified the league about their goaltending shortage, and he clearly wasn't happy with Bouma, who was penalized on two of the three plays. At the same time, Clark declined to say that the 19-year-old forward was intentionally trying to further weaken the Cougars' goaltending situation.
"I think (Bouma) plays hard, but certainly, (his actions) are not acceptable," Clark said.
The Prince George goalscorers in the game were Clarke Breitkreuz -- who netted his first WHL goal -- and Spencer Asuchak. Both players had two-point nights. Vincour finished with two goals for the Giants, as did WHL points leader Craig Cunningham. The other Vancouver marksmen were Brett Breitkreuz, the older brother of Clarke, and Bouma.
The Giants (29-16-1-2) outshot the Cats 46-30. The Cougars (9-35-1-1) will face Dallas Jackson and the Kelowna Rockets Friday and Saturday at CN Centre. Jackson will make his return to Prince George after the Cats dealt him to the Rockets at the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
KITTY LITTER: The Cougars have added 17-year-old defenceman Zach Sweet to their roster. Sweet, from Winnipeg, was formerly listed by the Calgary Hitmen. Thanks to a hernia, he did not play in either weekend game.