The Prince George Cougars came into Western Financial Place to play the Kootenay Ice, but it was the hometown team that ended up beating themselves in a 5-4 loss to the visitors on Wednesday night.
The Cougars took advantage of some poor defensive play by the Ice, scoring four goals off of sloppy turnovers in the Kootenay zone in their march towards the win.
“It cost us, that’s right,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill, of the turnovers. “You can’t turn the puck over in critical areas of the ice and expect to win hockey games.
“At the same time, you got to recover better from mistakes.”
Mackenzie Skapski started the game in goal for the Ice, but was replaced by backup Wyatt Hoflin in the third period. Skapski made seven saves in eleven shots, while Holflin allowed one goal while turning away five pucks.
Kootenay outshot the Cougars in every period, and Prince George goaltender Brett Zarowny was busy making 35 stops on the night.
Kyle O’Connor, Collin Shirley, Joey Leach and Erik Benoit supplied the offence for the Ice, while Colin Jacobs, Dallas Ehrhardt, Caleb Belter, Brett Roulston and Jari Erricson responded for the Cougars.
Kootenay prevented the Cougars from scoring in three separate power plays, while capitalizing once in five of their own chances, one of which was a five-minute major.
Skapski got burned on his first shot, as the defence failed to cover Dallas Ehrhardt, who sneaked into the zone and collected a loose puck to roof it over the Ice goaltender’s glove.
Kootenay applied some good pressure, but nothing translated into a response on the scoreboard until late in the frame.
Brock Montgomery vented some frustration in the offensive zone corner, dropping the gloves with Tanner Lishchynsky, and working the young 17-year-old over just after the 10 minute mark.
The Cougars doubled their lead when Colin Jacobs won a footrace to a puck and stole in on Skapski all alone, beating the Kootenay netminder low blocker side.
The Ice flailed around for a bit in the latter half of the period, but finally organized themselves and responded on the power play, when Kyle O’Connor notched his first-career WHL goal by spinning and firing a shot in the slot during a mad scramble just outside of the crease.
The Cougars had already stymied the Ice on a quality scoring chance in the same man-advantage, when Zarowny was out of position, but a teammate stood between the pipes to save an Ice shot.
The second period was a little better, but mistakes still plagued the Ice.
Kootenay had a good start, but a giveaway in the defensive zone translated into a two-goal lead for the Cougars when Caleb Belter picked off a bad pass and beat Skapski high glove side.
However, the Ice answered back when Erik Benoit put an innocent-looking shot on goal just after a face-off that beat Zarowny.
Collin Shirley found the equalizer six minutes later for his first-career WHL goal by getting a stick on a shot from Matt Thomas, who released from the blue line.
However, another turnover in Kootenay’s defensive zone turned into a Cougars goal, when Brett Roulston intercepted a shoddy pass and scored to put Prince George in the lead once again.
Benoit nearly had another goal, driving to the net on a half-breakaway just as the Ice finished killing a penalty, while Jaedon Descheneau hit the post late in the frame on a power play.
Joey Leach got got himself on the scoresheet in the third period, pinching in from the point and firing a weak angle shot into the net with Zarowny way out of position.
With a tied up game once again, the Ice looked for the go-ahead goal, but it was the Cougars who responded when Jari Erricson took advantage of yet another turnover in the defensive zone to put the puck past Hoflin to take the lead.
“You can’t keep coming back from deficits all the time in your own building, it’s too hard,” said McGill.
Ice defenceman Tanner Faith was checked from behind by Zach Pochiro, who got a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit. Ice captain Drew Czerwonka took offence and he went in throwing a few fists and Pochiro was game for a little rough stuff.
Faith was able get up and skate off the ice without help from teammates or trainer Cory Cameron, who went out to check on the young rookie.
Despite a five-minute power play, the Ice couldn’t get anything past the Cougars, and an extra attacker in the dying minutes couldn’t translate to a game-tying goal.
The Ice have lost their third consecutive game on home ice and have one win in six games, which puts them in last place in the WHL.
Next action for the Ice is on Friday against the Saskatoon Blades—the WHL franchise that is hosting the Mastercard Memorial Cup this year.
The Blades have had a pretty poor start to the season as well, with only two wins in eight games.