Cougars Back to Kelowna
Tonight in the Okanagan, the Prince George Cougars four game, nine day road trip comes to an end with yet another showdown against the B.C. Division leading Kelowna Rockets. After tonight these teams will have faced each other four times in two calendar weeks and you can bet that the Cougars have redemption on their minds as they’ve suffered back-to-back losses against Kelowna after shutting them out at home back on Friday, October 16th. So far on the trip the Cougars are 1-2, so a victory tonight would leave them in a great spot as they would return home with a plus-500 record heading into Monday’s clash with Lethbridge.
Brad Ralph’s Kelowna Rockets are starting to find their form. They’ve won three straight games and are now 9-4 through 13 games and hold a one point lead over Victoria for first in the B.C. Division. So far this season the Rockets are 2-1 against the Cougars and are 1-0 against them at Prospera Place. After dropping a 3-0 game in Prince George back on the 16th, the Rockets have outscored the Cougars 11-4.
Who’s Up Front:
In three games played against the Cougars the talented duo of Dillon Dube and Tyson Ballie have combined for six goals and 14 points. Tyson Ballie has nine goals and 14 assists which currently has him tied for second in WHL scoring. His success against the Cougars has been well documented as he has now registered 33 points in 29 career games against Prince George. Keeping Baillie and Dube neutralized is going to be a major key for the Cougars defensively tonight.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Rockets are led by 18-year-old Lucas Johansen. The draft eligible pivlot ranks first in points for Kelowna defencemen with eight, and he logs a ton of minutes in all situations for his team. The Rockets won’t wow you with skill on their back-end but they can certainly be counted upon to play a fast, physical and dependable game. They’ve done a good job at containing the Cougars who have only managed four goals in their past two meetings against the Rockets.
Who’s in Goal:
19-year-old goaltender Michael Herringer has gone 2-0 so far this season against the Prince George Cougars. His save percentage is an impressive .941 and his goals-against-average is 2.00 on the nose. He’s been named a star in each of the game’s he’s played against Prince George and has come up with some big-time saves in key moments so far this season. Does this type of success warrant another start against them tonight? Or will the Cougars face 20-year-old Jackson Whistle?
After struggling with the extra attacker early on, the Kelowna Rockets power play has started to find it’s form. Currently Kelowna sits seventh overall in the WHL with a success rate of 25.4 percent. Last week in Kelowna the Rockets only managed one goal on seven attempts against the Cougars with the lone goal coming with a five-on-three advantage. The Cougars simply cannot afford to take that many penalties in most games, let alone in a game in Kelowna against a talented Rockets team.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars are heading into their 13th game of the season with an even 6-6 record on the season so far. They are 5-3 at home and are 1-3 on the road. After an impressive 3-1 victory in Vancouver Sunday the Cougars struggled Wednesday in Kamloops dropping a 6-1 decision. The Cougars haven’t quite found their consistency that they’ve been longing for, and despite some emphatically dominant performances this season from this team, they have been anything but streaky in one way or the other. Tonight they’ll look to head home with four of eight possible points when they once again go head-to-head with Kelowna.
Who’s Up Front:
With three goals in his past four games, Jared Bethune looks like he’s starting to figure things out offensively. The second year forward out of Fort Fances, ON had a slow start to the season but is starting to do a lot of great things both with and without the puck. He’s got a quick shot, plays a strong game along the wall and has been rewarded with some increased power play time as of late. So far in three games against the Rockets, Bethune has a team high two goals.
Who’s on D:
Collectively the Cougars defense-corps is looking to bounce back after a disappointing performance Wednesday in Kamloops. So far this season the Cougars have scored just as many goals (33) as they have surrendered, which is not necessarily a bad thing considering that the Cougars offense hasn’t quite found it’s stride yet. But tonight the Cougars MUST be stronger in their own zone. They need to make high percentage plays, stay disciplined and not allow the Rockets to come back at them with a high number of odd-man rushes. They’ve shown that they are they are more than capable, and tonight they’ll need to show it again.
Who’s in Goal:
Ty Edmonds will be the first to admit that he wasn’t at his best Wednesday during the first period of a 6-1 loss in Kamloops, but despite that poor performance Edmonds’ numbers are still rock solid. Also Edmonds can take comfort in the comfort in the fact that he’s got a pair of victories to his credit in Kelowna against the Rockets dating back to last season. Mark Holick very well could decide to with Mack Shields who played the final 40 minutes on Wedneday too. Regardless of who gets the nod tonight, the Cougars goaltender will likely be busy, and will need to be one of the Cougars better players on the ice if they want to be successful.
It’s been a long trip for the Cougars. Sure they’ve only played three games since last Friday, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been away from home for nine days now. Winning on the road often involves a lot of sacrifice, whether it be blocking shots or going to the hard areas of the ice to score goals and make plays. The Cougars by all accounts should be a very strong road team given their physicality and their workman-like approach to the game. Hopefully tonight in Kelowna they can get an honest ‘buy in’ from everyone on their roster and as Mark Holick often says: “If we outwork our opposition we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to win.”