Thursday, December 15, 2005
Commanding win for Cats
But just 2,512 there to see it, smallest crowd ever for a WHL game at CN Centre
by JIM SWANSON Citizen Sports Editor
The Prince George Cougars didn't need the goaltending to play a major role Wednesday.
That's because the power play showed up in the first period, and the penalty killing arrived for the second.
The Cougars scored two first-period man-advantage goals then fended off a short two-man disadvantage and rode the momentum to an easy 6-1 victory at CN Centre over the suddenly hapless Portland Winter Hawks.
The injury-riddled Hawks, at one point considered an upper-echelon WHL team, have been outscored 14-2 in their last two games when Sunday's 8-1 loss to the Spokane Chiefs is added in.
The Cougars were 4-11 on the power play and held Portland to one goal on eight chances, dominating that area of the game. Actually, there wasn't any area of this game the Cougars didn't dominate against a Hawks team that forgot to pack intensity and looked like it wanted to be anywhere else on Wednesday.
"Before the game we looked at a stat where (Portland) hadn't won a game when they were trailing after the first period this whole season, so we knew if we could get on them early then that stat would come true," said Cougars head coach Mike Vandekamp.
"It did. Our start was excellent, it's one of the best starts we've had all year. We really beat them in the first 10 minutes of the game. There seems to be something out of sync (with Portland), their back end is struggling with injuries, but we were able to win a lot of races to loose pucks. We caught them on what seems to be a bit of a downer."
Jared Walker showed those on hand - hardly any, a paltry 2,512 for announced attendance, for the second-straight home game a new record low - why the Cougars made last month's deal, sending Mike Berube to Red Deer for the hulking 19-year-old centre. Walker set up the first goal on the game's first power play with a dandy no-look backhand to Colin Patterson, who found the empty net for his ninth of the year, then Walker did the job himself to put the Cats up 2-0.
"Walker's been very good for us, and he's a real calming influence when we need it," said Vandekamp.
Nick Drazenovic extended the lead to 3-0 before the first was done, and Myles Zimmer, with his first of two, made it 4-0 early in the second. From there, it was cruise control for the Cats, who rounded out the scoring when Eric Hunter fired his 17th of the season and Zimmer connected in the third.
"It was a fun night for us for a change," said Vandekamp.
"We were saying in the coaches room, we beat Lethbridge 5-0 earlier in the season but most of the nights it's been nail-biters. I think the guys played with lots of pride."
The Cougars' penalty killers did allow a second-period goal by Brandon Dubinsky, but that was it. With the score 4-1 in the second, Portland had 1:25 of two-man time staring at them, but Hawks forward Kyle Bailey was called for interference and the Cougars scored on that power play.
Through it all, Cougars netminder Scott Bowles might as well have taken a Gameboy on the ice with him, particularly in the first 40 minutes. Bowles did allow a second-period goal to Brandon Dubinsky, but was rarely tested. The Cougars outshot the Hawks 18-6 in the first, 17-6 in the second, and 11-9 in the third - by game's end, the totals fittingly read 46-21 in favour of Prince George.
Bowles's best saves were glove thieveries on Frazer McLaren in the last seconds of the second period, and on Garth Collins on a third-period breakaway.
"It's embarrassing - I feel like our players are using all these excuses like we're hurt or tired, but there's no reason why we can't put an effort in," said Portland coach Mike Williamson.
"I have to give Prince George a lot of credit, they won all the battles on the wall and just plain wanted it more. It looked like a bantam team against a junior team."
Cougars rookie defenceman Chris Vanduynhoven picked up his first WHL point when he assisted on Zimmer's first goal. Blueliner Curtis Cooper had two assists, the sixth multi-point game of his career. Twice, both times coming when he was a 16-year-old, Cooper has picked up three helpers in a game.
The Cougars, 2-0 to start this nine-game homestand, are now three games above .500 at 17-14-0-3, and have a one-point lead over the Kamloops Blazers for fourth in the B.C. Division. The Cougars, who have a game in hand on the Blazers, play host to Kamloops on Friday and Saturday in the final pre-Christmas games for both clubs.
KITTY LITTER: Cougars rookie winger Dana Tyrell, 16, has been named to Team Pacific for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, an injury replacement for Portland's Colton Sceviour, who is out with a broken jaw. The tournament takes place in Regina after Christmas... Due to a lack of healthy and available bodies, made worse if Andy Rogers makes Team Canada for the world juniors, the Cougars have listed rugged 19-year-old winger Jamison Orr, who plays for the BCHL's Williams Lake Timberwolves. The Winnipeg product has played for Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Brandon and Medicine Hat in the WHL, including a one-game stint for the Tigers earlier this season... The Cougars will bring in 15-year-old forwards Dale Hunt and Matt Belich for their WHL debuts Dec. 26-27, when the Spokane Chiefs are at CN Centre for a two-game series. Hunt was the Cougars' first round pick in the most recent bantam draft, while Belich, from Red Deer, was tabbed in the second round. Hunt has 14 goals and 26 points in 21 games for the midget AAA Pembina Valley Hawks. Belich was going to play for the Cougars in Red Deer last month, but the feisty winger was suspended at that time.
ęCopyright 2005 Prince George Citizen