Bright spots were few and far between for the Chilliwack Bruins Wednesday night, as they dropped a 4-0 decision to the Prince George Cougars at Prospera Centre.
In a game where not much went right for the home side, at least the fans could be happy about the return of number 25.
Robin Soudek was back in the lineup for the first time since Remembrance Day, taking his usual spot alongside linemates Ryan Howse and Roman Horak. The 19-year-old Czech looked like his usual self, digging for loose pucks along the boards and enthusiastically going to the net.
That was good to see.
“I was happy to be out there, although I didn’t really do anything tonight,” Soudek said. “I just wanted to play my game and not worry about what can happen. And I think I did that.”
You couldn’t have blamed Soudek for being hesitant.
Had he been facing a different direction two weeks ago when Vancouver defenceman Wes Vannieuwenhuizen drove him face-first into the boards by the Chilliwack bench, Soudek could very well have suffered a season, or even career ending injury.
Everyone who saw the hit expected him to miss far more than four games and Vannieuwenhuizen was handed a seven game suspension by the league.
Even Soudek expected worse.
“I’ve seen it a few times, and I think the hit was probably partly my fault because I turned my back to him,” Soudek said. “As soon as I hit the boards, everything in my neck cracked and I was just happy I was able to move my fingers and toes. But they did the x-rays and everything was OK. The concussion was the worst, because some days you feel pretty good and think it might be gone. And the next day you’ve got symptoms back. It’s not a fun time.”
As welcome as Soudek’s return was, it wasn’t a magic fix for the Bruins, who’ve now dropped seven of their last nine, going 2-3-2-2 over that stretch.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to play. We didn’t stick to the game plan,” Soudek said bluntly. “Nobody is doing what the coaches want. We’ve talked about it a lot in the dressing room, but it’s up to each guy to buy in and start doing it.”
Prince George jumped on their struggling hosts in the first period, opening up a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes.
Greg Fraser opened the scoring with his fourth of the year, finishing a feed from Nick Buonassisi at 13:49.
Spencer Asuchak doubled the lead four minutes later with a goal that Chilliwack netminder Lucas Gore would love to have back. Working one-on-one against Bruins blueliner Jeff Einhorn, Asuchak fired a backhand shot from the right faceoff circle, beating Gore five-hole for ninth of the year.
Shots on goal in period one were even at 11-11.
Slow starts have been a major issue for the Bruins.
“We get great preparation from our coaching staff, and it’s up to the players to do what they want,” Soudek reiterated.
The Cougars were buzzing again to begin period two, and added to their lead at 11:15 on a goal by Vernon native James Dobrowolski. Tampa Bay Lightning uber-prospect Brett Connolly set him up with a pass from the right corner.
Cutting right to left across the goal-mouth, Dobrowolski found Gore out of position and nothing but net to shoot at for his fifth of the year.
Cougars D-man Sena Acolatse blew a power play slap-shot past Gore at 16:06 to wrap up the scoring.
Shots on goal in period two favoured the Cougars 8-5.
The best chance Chilliwack had to break up James Priestner’s shutout came in the first minute of the final frame. Roman Horak flew down the right wing and stepped inside on Prince George defenceman Cody Carlson.
Horak’s laser from 15 feet out pinged off the right post, and that was it for the Bruins who were blanked for the first time this season in front of a season-low crowd of 2,267.
If there is good news, it’s that despite the recent slump, Chilliwack finds itself just three points out of first place in the B.C. division.
“Yeah, but we’re losing games we’re supposed to win, and if we’d win these games we’d be on the top,” Soudek noted.
Three stars were Asuchak (first), Buonassisi (second) and Priestner (third).
Chilliwack’s next chance to right the ship is Friday night when they host Ty Rattie and the Portland Winter Hawks at Prospera Centre.
Puck drop is 7:30 p.m.