Cougars’ Road Trip Continues in Kamloops
A busy stretch of travel continues today for the Prince George Cougars who today find themselves in the Tournament Capital for another showdown with the Kamloops Blazers.
Last night in Everett the Cougars earned a hard fought point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Silvertips. It was the first time this season that the Cougars had experienced three-on-three overtime and with that much open ice, it’s often a bit of a coin flip as to how the game will end. But never the less the Cougars have earned points in three straight games and in six of their past eight games altogether. At the other end, the Kamloops Blazers have won four straight games and are playing some terrific hockey. One of those four victories for Kamloops was a 6-1 decision over the Cougars back on October 28th, so you can bet that Mark Holick’s team will have revenge on their minds when the two rivals take the ice again tonight.
Don Hay’s Kamloops Blazers are coming into tonight’s game with a four game winning streak and an overall record of 7-8 on the season which puts them fourth in the B.C. Division and seventh in the Western Conference. The Blazers started the season with six straight losses and since then they have really found their stride. The Blazers are 1-0 against the Cougars so far this season after posting a 6-1 victory over Prince George back on October 28th. It was the first the first of 10 total meetings between the two rivals. Last season the Blazers went 3-4-0-1 against the Cougars and were 3-1 against them at the Sandman Centre.
Who’s Up Front:
Since joining the Kamloops Blazers in a trade with the Kelowna Rockets, 20-year-old forward Gage Quinney has really caught fire. The Las Vegas native has played in seven games with the Blazers and has posted three goals and six assists in that span. Despite last night’s victory in Vancouver, Quinney was held off the score sheet for just the first time in a Blazer uniform. During the Blazers 6-1 win over Prince George earlier this season, Quinney got the offense started with a first period shorthanded goal. Keeping Quinney contained will be a big key for the Cougars tonight.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Kamloops Blazers have gotten some terrific early season contributions from sophomore defenceman Dawson Davidson. The product of Moosomin, SK has scored once and added 10 assists and a +7 rating for Kamloops which is tops among all Blazers defencemen. Davidson is in the midst of a seven game point streak and has notched nine assists in that span. Two of those nine points came against the Cougars back in late October.
Who’s in Goal:
The Kamloops Blazers have a tough decision to make tonight in goal. Do they go back with Connor Ingram who’s put up terrific career numbers against the Cougars and who’s coming off a 31 save victory last night in Vancouver? Or do the Blazers give backup goaltender Dylan Ferguson the chance? The 17-year-old backup last started a game on October 23rd, a 3-1 loss at home against Calgary. However he’s 1-3 on the season and his goals-against-average is a respectable 3.01 and his save percentage is .883. Either guy gives Kamloops a great chance to win. Ingram in particular always seems to rise to the occasion when the Cougars are involved.
Fatigue could be a big factor for both teams tonight considering that Kamloops had to travel through the night from Vancouver and the Cougars had to do so from Everett, WA. The second games of back-to-backs can be a challenge energy-wise, and it will be important for Kamloops to try and set the tone early at home. Any team coached by Don Hay will not shy away from a little hard work and tonight at home the Blazers will need to try and get their crowd into it early. Last time these teams met the Blazers had a 3-0 lead after one. You know they’d love to have something similar take place tonight at home.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars are coming into tonight’s game having secured at least a single point in six of their past eight games. Their record of 8-6-1-0 puts them third in the B.C. Division and fifth overall in the Western Conference. The Cougars are 2-3-1-0 on the road and are 6-3-1-0 in their past 10 overall. Tonight’s game against Kamloops marks the second of 10 meetings against them, and the second of three consecutive meetings against the Blazers in Kamloops.
Who’s Up Front:
The Prince George Cougars offense was limited to just one goal in last night’s game against Everett despite some pretty good looks and a terrific goaltending performance from Carter Hart. Despite some of the offensive struggles this season for the Cougars they continue to generate consistent scoring chances and have outshot their opposition more often than not. Last night’s game in Everett marked just the fifth time in 15 games that the Cougars had been outshot. Look for the trio of Brogan O’Brien, Jesse Gabrielle and Brad Morrison to do the heavy lifting offensively again. O’Brien notched his sixth of the season last night in Everett and now has 11 points in the season.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Cougars can once again hold their heads high knowing that they were able to keep a strong Everett team to just two goals for on 38 shots attempts. The Cougars have surrendered the third fewest goals against in the entire WHL and collectively the Cougars can feel good about their improvement in that area. Tonight they’ll need that same type of buy in, particularly from their top four of: Sam Ruopp, Josh Anderson, Joe Carvalho and Shane Collins. Collins had a strong game last night in Everett and seems to be playing with a heightened confidence. He even got a regular shift in overtime, which should bode well for the 18-year-old’s minset moving forward into tonight.
Who’s in Goal:
After starting six straight games, Ty Edmonds will get tonight off in favor of 20-year-old Mack Shields. Shields hasn’t started a game since October 23rd in Kelowna but despite that gap in starts, Shields has said all of the right things and worked hard to make sure that he’s ready for when his number is called. Shields is 3-2 on the season with a 3.17 goals-against-average and an .883 save percentage. The Cougars are going to need their 20-year-old goaltender to be a prime factor in tonight’s game, and this season Shields has shown that he’s more than capable of backstopping his team to victory.
The Prince George Cougars need a good start in tonight’s game. Last time out against Kamloops the Cougars trailed 3-0 after the first period and were behind the 8-ball almost immediately. Tonight it’ll be important for the Cougars to manage their shift length, and also to make sure that they are not complicating their game. Winning in the road is never fancy, and tonight the Cougars will need to keep that in mind as they look for a little bit payback against the Blazers after they were humbled in the same building back in late October.