Cougars make coaching change . . . Matvichuk done after loss to Giants

The Prince George Cougars have relieved head coach Richard Matvichuk of his duties, effective immediately.

A source familiar with the situation has told Taking Note that the move was made PrinceGeorgefollowing a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Vancouver Giants on Wednesday night.

Matvichuk, who was in his third season as the Cougars’ head coach, was in the final season of a three-year contract. He joined the Cougars on July 2, 2016, after spending two seasons as the director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks.

Matvichuk was hired by Todd Harkins, then the Cougars’ general manager. The Cougars announced on March 19 that Harkins’ contract wouldn’t be renewed.

Harkins was replaced by Mark Lamb, who didn’t respond to a request for comment early this morning. It is expected that he will be behind the Cougars’ bench when they meet the Rockets in Kelowna on Wednesday night.

The Cougars, who are 0-8-3 in their past 11 games, are 16-30-6 and eight points out of a playoff spot with 16 games remaining.

The Cougars were 85-89-22 under Matvichuk, including 45-21-6 in his first season, when they went all-in at the trade deadline and finished first in the B.C. Division. However, they lost a first-round series to the Portland Winterhawks in six games.

Last season, the Cougars finished 24-38-10 and missed the playoffs.

The organization recently underwent a change in philosophy, deciding that it no longer would aim for the one-season splash, but now would build through the bantam draft with a goal of consistently making the playoffs.

That change, however, wasn’t enough to save Matvichuk’s job.

Lamb, who was named GM on June 19, signed a four-year contract.

Matvichuk, 46, is from Edmonton. A defenceman, he played in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades (1989-92), then went on to a pro career that included 796 NHL games. He spent nine seasons with the Dallas Stars; Lamb was an assistant coach for two of those seasons (2002-04).

Lamb, 54, is from Ponteix, Sask. He was the general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos for seven seasons (2009-16) before spending 2016-17 as the head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners.

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