If there's such a thing as a good loss, this was it.
The Prince George Cougars played an inspired and bruising brand of hockey against the Vancouver Giants Friday night at CN Centre but weren't rewarded on the scoreboard for their efforts. The Cats, who have had offensive woes all season, were forced to accept a 3-1 setback.
"I liked our whole attitude towards it," said Cougars head coach Dean Clark. "We want to play hard all the time and especially in our building here at home and we didn't give up. We just kept battling right until the end."
The Giants scored one goal in the second period and two in the third but couldn't get anything else past new Cougars goaltender Kyle Jahraus, who was making his second consecutive start after being acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds at the trade deadline. He finished the Western Hockey League game with an impressive 40 saves. The Cougars threw 38 pucks at Vancouver goalie Mark Segal and were unlucky not to beat him more than once. The goal, by Jaroslav Vlach, came late in the third period when the Giants were already up 3-0. Vlach was positioned in the low slot and scored after a point shot by Art Bidlevskii rang off the post.
The Vancouver markers in the period were courtesy of Tomas Vincour and Brendan Gallagher, who connected on a backhander after he was sprung free by teammate Lance Bouma. Gallagher's goal happened just after he had gotten away with a blatant high stick on Prince George's Jesse Forsberg at centre ice.
"It seemed that every time something didn't go our way they came back and scored a goal," Clark said. "But we continued to fight the fight. We've just got to stay with that frame of mind. I would have liked for us to come out a little bit better but you've got to give them some credit. They're a good team and they do things with some purpose."
The Giants opened the scoring in the middle frame, the goal by Craig Cunningham. He knocked in a loose puck after a low wrister from the point by David Musil.
The Cougars appeared to come right back with a goal, but it was waved off by the referee after a video review could not conclusively determine that the puck had crossed the goal line before the whistle sounded. On the play, James Dobrowolski and Nick Buonassisi worked a give-and-go while the Cats were on a power play. Buonassisi pulled the trigger from the bottom of the left faceoff circle and the puck seemed to squeak between the post and the right skate of Segal. As the players and officials gathered at the side of the net, with Segal covering up, the goal light went on and the Cougars thought they had scored. The review, however, did not go in their favour.
The Cats dropped to 9-34-1-1 and the Giants improved to 28-16-1-2.
The teams will do it all over again tonight at CN Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.
KITTY LITTER: With goaltenders Hudson Stremmel (concussion) and Alex Wright (broken collarbone) both injured, Jahraus's backup on Friday was Tim Zwiers. The former Cariboo Cougars stopper became the 10th goalie to dress for the WHL club this season.... 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 on Friday.