Like most hockey teams, the Prince George Cougars season had its share of highs and lows. Here’s a sampling of a few that got my attention.

High—-Rejuvenation of the fans and the franchise

The average attendance went from 1,693 to 2,852. Add the two playoff home crowds of 4,202 and 4,448 and that’s an overall average of 2,930 over the course of 38 games, nearly double last season’s total. Continuing the upswing will be a priority moving forward for the New Ice Age ownership.

Low—The 12 game losing streak in January

That was a rough period for all members of the Cougars organization, especially the players and coaches. However, the team persevered through that testy time and miraculously the skid did not cost them a playoff spot.

High—Memorable nights

Three regular season home games stick out in my mind starting with Opening night and the 5,659 fans that were re-energized to return to CN Centre despite a 7-2 loss to Kelowna. The final regular season home game, with 4,570 fans in attendance for fan appreciation night, was noteworthy as the Cougars beat Kamloops 3-1 to clinch a playoff berth.

Arguably, the most touching and suspenseful home game was Saturday, March 7th, a 4-3 shootout loss to Victoria that required 11 rounds of the shootout.

There were 5,404 fans for a record 50-50 jackpot of $67,095. Half of the grand total went to the Shelly L. Mrkonjic ALS Research Fund. Shelly, the mother of Cougars forward Tyler Mrkonjic, died of ALS in 2006. Oh yes, Tyler was the first star of the game, scoring his team’s first goal after they trailed 3-0.

Low—The home record

16-17-1-2 was the worst home record in the Western Conference and third worst in the 22 team league, only ahead of Saskatoon and Lethbridge. In addition, the Cougars had 14 home doubleheaders against the same opponent and only managed three sweeps of the opposition. On the other hand, the Cats were swept five times. It goes without saying these numbers need to improve immensely if the team is to get to the next level.

High—Never say die attitude

When faced with desperation and a playoff spot on the line, the Cougars went 11-5-1-2 in February and March to close out the regular season. They came from behind on numerous occasions to either win or get a point. Even in the playoffs in their last game, the Cats clawed to the very end. They trailed game five 3-1 early and 4-3 late but rallied to force overtime, before having their season end with a 5-4 loss in Victoria.

Low—-The specialty teams

The Cougars were last of 22 teams on the penalty kill and 19th on the power play.

High—-Morale

Pride was put back into the team and it started with the new ownership. Players enjoyed putting on the Cougars uniform and fans enjoyed watching the product. Yes, the community responded favorably.

Low—-Lack of disclipline

Much better near the end of the regular season and in the playoffs but the Cougars spent far too much time in the box. In fact, they were the most penalized team with 1310 minutes, nearly double Kootenay’s total of 706 and Everett’s total of 721. Lethbridge was the second most penalized team in the league (1,120) but still 190 minutes behind Prince George.

High—A taste of playoffs

Yes eight out of 10 Western Conference teams qualify but it had been four years since the Cougars made the playoffs and eight years since they earned a post-season victory.

Low—-The end of the season

Despite the valiant effort, the playoff drive was too short, lasting just five games, although the experience will be beneficial for the returning players.

Overall—-

Sure one can point to a losing record (31-36-2-3) and a quick playoff exit, however, one can not overlook the significant improvement in practically all aspects of the hockey team. Sure mistakes were made but the team has put itself into a position where they can continue to learn and grow. Having a booster club in place next season would be beneficial. I believe it is fair when assessing the PG Cougars 2014-15 performance, from top to bottom in their organization, to hand out the following letter grade:

B

From the Quote Rack:

On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, A-Rod apparently got the loudest ovation of any player when he was introduced. Figures, most comics work nights and had the day off.

An autographed Jay Cutler football received no bids at a Chicago charity auction. Well, to be fair, apparently a number of people tried but their bids could not be completed.

Contributor Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

Singer-songwriter Don McLean’s original manuscript and notes to ‘American Pie’ were sold at auction for $1.2 Million. They would have sold for more, but they were autographed by Jay Cutler.

You have to forgive the Cubs’ bathroom problems—when Wrigley was built, humans had yet to develop bladders.

Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

Cubs fans had to pee into cups as the restrooms at Wrigley Field were out of order on Opening Day. For those that drank more than a couple of beer, they needed to use a relief pitcher.

This Easter in Seattle, the Pete Carroll family dinner table language (along with most Seahawks fans households) changed to “hand me the turkey”, “hand me the potatoes”, “hand me the gravy”, etc.

Comedy writer TC Chong of Vancouver (http://alwaysfunny.com/)

The private jet for Tiger Woods landed in Augusta. Word is the approach was decent, but it took four tries to get it in the hangar.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s KHL junior hockey team recently celebrated a playoff series win by falling over like human dominoes. They are not to be confused with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lay down weeks ago.

Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

And in case you missed it:

The Maple Leafs aren’t always behind the times. They’re the first NHL team to install statues outside their building and on the ice in the very same season.

Steve Simmons of SunMedia

Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the Goat. His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com. Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca
Follow him on twitter: @Hartley_Miller