Based on kilometres alone, the ride home was a long one.
For the Cariboo Cougars, it was even more arduous after a loss to the last-place team in the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League.
Sunday in Nakusp, the Cougars -- one of the MML's top clubs all season -- fell 5-4 to the Kootenay Ice. That defeat came on the heels of a 6-1 Cariboo victory on Saturday.
With the results, the Cougars saw their third-place record slip to 17-8-1. The Ice, meanwhile, improved to 5-21-0.
"We beat them 6-1 the night before and the guys didn't show up to play," Cougars head coach Trevor Sprague said of the unexpected loss.
"(Goaltender Jared) Rathjen started for us and there were a couple questionable goals that maybe could have been stopped. But, at the same time, our D-corps seemed to struggle the whole weekend."
The troubles on defence were magnified when 16-year-old blueliner Justin Duncan hurt his right knee on Saturday. Early last season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the same joint and didn't play another game.
"We don't know how bad it is this time but we went down to five D and those five D couldn't bounce back by working with different guys every time they went out," Sprague said. "We got caught playing in a small barn where Sunday the only thing that Kootenay did was hit us and smack us around and none of our veteran guys wanted to even throw a stick at them."
The Cats' medical woes didn't end with Duncan. Team captain Chris Allbee, a 17-year-old forward who missed several weeks of action because of a separated shoulder, re-injured himself on Sunday after he had scored his first two goals of the season.
For the contests against the Ice, the Cougars were already without forwards Tyson Witala and Shaun Cormier. Witala, 16, suffered a broken arm in the club's final game at the Mac's tournament, held in Calgary during the Christmas break. The 17-year-old Cormier, meanwhile, hurt a shoulder during a badminton match prior to the trip south. Witala and Cormier were replaced by affiliated players Harjas Grewal of Prince George and Darcy O'Flaherty of Williams Lake.
Defenceman Mike Jorgensen scored the other two Cariboo goals on Sunday. They were also Jorgensen's first two markers of the year.
Forward David Stephens, with one goal and two assists, led the Cougars offensively on Saturday. Grewal also finished with two goals in that game and Marcus Beesley was the winning goalie.
The Cougars will take on the Greater Vancouver Canadians Saturday and Sunday in Kelowna. One night earlier, also in Kelowna, the league will hold its annual all-star game. Six members of the Cats will participate in the showcase contest. Team White features Beesley and Michael King, while Team Blue will have Stephens, Jari Erricson, Tyson McCallum and Alex Roach on its roster.