Cougars Visit Rockets
After a lengthy six game homestand, the Prince George Cougars have taken to the road where they will play their next four straight games, and 10 of their next 13 overall. Tonight the Cougars will start their trip in hostile territory as they go head-to-head with the defending league champs, the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place. These teams squared off against each other twice last weekend in Prince George, and if those two games are any indication this rivalry is going to a fun one to behold.
Brad Ralph’s Kelowna Rockets are coming into tonight’s game with a 7-4 overall record. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games overall and their 14 points currently has them tied with the Victoria Royals for top spot in the B.C. Division. Last weekend the Rockets split their weekend in Prince George. After losing 3-0 on Friday they stormed back with a 6-2 win on Saturday. Last season the Rockets were 6-2 against the Cougars and 2-2 against them at Prospera Place. These two teams will meet once more in October next Friday in the 30th.
Who’s Up Front:
Through 11 games, 20-year-old forward Tyson Baillie has been dynamite for the Rockets. His nine goals and 10 assists puts him atop the Rockets in scoring and fourth overall in the entire WHL. Last weekend in Prince George Baillie scored twice and added three assists in the Rockets 6-2 win on Saturday and now for his career he has tallied 31 points in 28 games against Prince George.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Rockets are young but they are mobile, smart and can handle themselves in all areas of the ice. Lucas Johansen had a goal and an assist against Prince George in their victory last weekend, and logged some big minutes in pressure situations. Now that the Rockets are at home they control the last change, and that will allow the Rockets coaching staff to put Johansen out against for some big minutes against the likes of Jansen Harkins, Brad Morrison, Jesse Gabrielle and Chase Witala, etc.
Who’s in Goal:
This could be a tricky decision for Kelowna, because Jackson Whistle was good on Friday in a 3-0 loss, but Michael Herringer was excellent Saturday in a 6-2 victory. Either goaltender is capable of stealing a game for his respective team and knowing full well that the Rockets have another home game tomorrow night against Calgary, both could very well play again this weekend.
The Kelowna Rockets power play burst out in a big way Saturday going three-for-four on their opportunities. For the season the Rockets have succeeded 26 percent of the time on the man advantage and are currently ranked eighth in the entire WHL. Discipline is very important in all games, but especially on the road against divisional teams. A big key for the Cougars will be to try and limit the Rockets power play chances because they can strike quickly and often when given the opportunity up a man.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars are coming into tonight’s game with a 5-4 record on the season. They have won two straight games and are looking to improve their road record to 1-1 on the season with a win tonight in Kelowna. Earlier this week the Cougars played twice at home against Calgary and posted back-to-back victories against them. They showed in those games that when they play to their strengths in all areas of the ice they are awfully difficult to beat. Tonight will provide the Cougars with a big early season to test as they look to gain some traction in the B.C. Division.
Who’s Up Front:
When the Cougars acquired Jesse Gabrielle in a summer trade with Regina, they knew they were getting a player who could be a difference maker. Did they expect him to make such a strong impact early with eight goals in nine games? Perhaps not, but Gabrielle has certainly proven his worth offensively and physically here in the early stages of his Cougars career. He’s got four goals in his last two games. Hopefully that’s a trend that can continue tonight in Kelowna.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Cougars are coming off arguably their strongest and most complete game of the season Wednesday. They held Calgary to 23 shots and for the most part they maintained control throughout the 60 minute contest. Tonight again it’s all about structure and it’s all about team defense. If the Cougars can replicate their effort from Tuesday and Wednesday they are going to put themselves in a great position to win. Mark Holick constantly preaches the fact that his best players need to be the best players, so expect a big night from the likes of Ruopp, Carvalho, Olson and Anderson as they log big minutes on the road.
Who’s in Goal:
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Mack Shields is 2-0 in games this week and has stopped 48 of the 50 shots he’s seen in that span. His record is now 3-1 and he and his counterpart Ty Edmonds continue to both play well up to this point in the season. The road though can be a different animal at times, and tonight Shields will need to manage his emotions accordingly as he goes up against a tough Kelowna club that has 45 goals to their credit so far.
Discipline tonight is paramount for the Prince George Cougars. The Kelowna Rockets have made a habit in recent seasons of feasting on opposing teams, particularly at home. But with that said, the Cougars won twice at Prospera Place last season, and both times they did so with terrific goaltending, timely scoring and perhaps most importantly they did so with the confidence and knowledge of knowing that they belonged. The Cougars know what they’re capable of, and tonight’s game is a definite statement game of sorts for the Cougars who are looking to get their road trip started the right way – With a big two points tonight in the Okanagan.