View Full Version : Citizen artical 2.27

02-27-2006, 10:24 PM
Friday, February 24, 2006

by JIM SWANSON Citizen Sports Editor

The Vancouver Giants have 14 losses in total this season, and five on the road.
Of those 14 losses, four have been the product of games with the Prince George Cougars. And for a Giants team with a .774 road winning percentage, the club is 'only' .500 in two games at CN Centre.

The makings of an upset? The Cougars sure hope so, or their dwindling playoff hopes could suffer a substantial blow with two swats by the Giants.

"The games we've had against them have been pretty good battles, and after the last one there were guys lying on the ice at the end because they were so tired (a 3-2 Cougars win in a Shaw-televised game on Jan. 31 at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver)," said captain Myles Zimmer, his new mohawk hairstyle not about to get the attention of GQ editors.

"It's a divisional battle, and most of our divisional games this year have been like that, right down to the wire. This weekend's games are the biggest ones. For us, it has to be so we can get those four points. We've been up and down, we're on a down streak now, but we have to get out of it and peak going to the playoffs. If we play (Vancouver) in the first round, we want to make sure we let them know we'll be a tough opponent."

The task may be daunting, but it provides a perfect opportunity for the Cougars to send a message to the players they'd face should they hold off Kamloops and grab the final B.C. Division playoff spot. Kamloops has a one-point edge, but the Cats have two games in hand.

"We're 4-2 against Vancouver this year and have played pretty good against them - we probably have a better record against them than any other team in the league does against that team," said Cougars head coach Mike Vandekamp, his team struggling with just one win in the last nine games.

"We should have confidence. What better team to grab some points against and get ourselves into the playoffs than the team you'd end up playing when you get there. That could be a bit of a motivating factor."

The Giants haven't been in Prince George since the second weekend of October, and a lot has changed since then, on both sides. Vancouver general manager Scott Bonner has, as usual, retooled his team. Out went Keith Voytechek, Max Gordichuk, Scott Gabriel, Tommy Tartaglione and Luke Egener, replaced by Brendan Mikkelson, John Flatters and Tyson Sexsmith. Ex-Cougar Brett Parker, an overager, was added to the roster, but he won't be here this weekend because he's in playoffs with the SJHL's Melville Millionaires.

The Cougars have also made moves since the Giants were here last, unloading Mike Berube, Randy King, Ryan Kerr, Blair Stengler, Ryan Gillen, Josh Bray, Alex Alexandrov and Kris Deines. New to the roster in that time are Jared Walker, Kirk Meaver, Kalvin Sagert, Jesse Dudas and Curtis Patterson.

The playoff scenario has reached a critical stage. Take a peek back to Jan. 16, when the Cougars were nine points ahead of the Blazers for that final B.C. Division berth - since then, the Cats are 5-9-0-1, while Kamloops is 10-6-1-0. Both teams made their eastern swings in that period, the Blazers going 3-3, the Cougars slip-sliding to 1-4-0-1.

While the Cats face the WHL's best team this weekend, the Blazers are home to two inconsistent U.S. clubs - Portland tonight, Seattle on Saturday.

"If we start second-guessing ourselves, getting down on ourselves and pouting, we're just losing time," said Vandekamp.

"There's no time for that right now. We have to have a good practice, and look at some videotape and try to find some ways around our power play again. We have to stay positive and learn from our mistakes (in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Portland)."