Perhaps the Vancouver Giants left their offence in the Prairies.
Having scored 24 goals over their past five games — three of those victories with an overtime loss also mixed in — the Giants returned to the Langley Events Centre on Friday night. But despite outshooting the visiting Prince George Cougars 33-29, Vancouver managed just a single goal, losing 2-1 in Western Hockey League action.
The loss dropped the Giants to 5-6-1-1 while Prince George improved to 5-5-2-2.
“We didn’t execute well — they won all the races, the puck battles,” said Giants coach Jason McKee.
“Full credit to Prince George, they outworked us and deserved the two points.”
Vancouver had 16 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but just four in the second period.
Cougars defenceman Dennis Cholowski — the Langley product who was a Detroit Red Wings first round draft pick from two years ago and has signed his entry level contract — had a goal and an assist in the victory, setting up Ryan Schoettler in the first period and then scoring himself in the second.
Giants captain Tyler Benson, who was playing his first game since Jan. 2, broke Tavin Grant’s shut-out bid with just under five minutes to play, taking a pass from Brendan Semchuk and wiring a shot high and the blocker side.
Benson was happy to finally return to game action but the outcome was not what he hoped for.
“We got lots of shots in the first, put a little pressure one, but we let up in the second and that is when they took control of the game,” he said. “We weren’t playing our game today; we can play a lot harder.
Grant stopped the first 28 shots he faced, many of them with his glove.
“I knew the goalie was going to be coming across with me so I thought I would shoot it back to the other side,” Benson said.
The goal seemed to energize the Giants and they had a glorious opportunity to score the equalizer in the final minute, with goaltender Todd Scott on the bench for the extra attacker.
Ty Ronning got behind the Cougars defence and was in all alone, but Grant came up with the biggest of his 32 saves.
Vancouver was coming off a seven-game road trip, which saw them go 3-2-1-1.
“We didn’t have as much traffic as we have in the past seven games on the road — we did a great job of getting people and pucks to the net and tonight I thought we went back to perimeter play and too much passing,” McKee said.
“A lot of guys tapping their sticks when they are not open instead of getting to the net. I think we saw some urgency in the third, we played like we had in the previous games and that is the team I saw for the last two weeks. Unfortunately we only saw 10 minutes of that tonight.”
“I think what it proves tonight is when we play on the perimeter, we are not a group that can play on the perimeter, we have to play on the inside and we have to learn from it.”
The Giants don’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they head to Victoria for a pair of games against the Victoria Royals on Saturday and Sunday. Both games are in Victoria.
The Royals are 10-4-1-0 and they are first in both the B.C. Division and the Western Conference.