Cougars-Royals Round Two
Tonight in Victoria, the Prince George Cougars arrive at the halfway point of their 2015-16 schedule.
For a second straight night and for a fourth consecutive game altogether the Cougars will take to the ice against their 2015 Playoff rivals from Victoria. Last night the Victoria Royals skated to a 6-2 victory and led 4-0 after one period. The final two periods were ‘better’ for PG who matched Victoria goal-for-goal but tonight’s it’s all about the response, which has been one of the primary strengths of this team all season long.
Enio Sacilotto’s Victoria Royals are coming into tonight’s rematch with an overall record of 22-12-1-1. Their 46 points put them in second place in the B.C. Division just two points ahead of the Prince George Cougars. So far this season the Royals are 2-1 against the Cougars and they have now won seven straight games against the Cougars (including playoffs) on home ice. The Royals are 6-4 in their last 10.
Who’s Up Front:
The Royals got offense from all throughout their lineup last night but the primary offensive catalysts were Vladimir Bobylev and Dante Hannoun who each recorded three assists to spark the Royals attack. Both Hannoun and Bobylev are plus players and have combined for 27 goals and 25 assists collectively. One of the biggest strengths of this Royals team in 2015-16 is their offensive depth, and Bobylev and Hannoun are two of the key contributors to that depth.
Who’s on D:
With big absence comes big opportunity. Without Joe Hicketts in their lineup the Royals have had to rely heavily on their two remaining veteran defencemen Chaz Reddekopp and Ryan Gagnon, both of whom played strong games Sunday for Victoria. Gagnon has never been regarded as a flashy, offensive type of defenceman, but his three goals and 13 assists are great totals to go along with his +18 rating. The former Cariboo Cougar had a goal and an assist for Victoria in their 6-2 victory and was named third star of the game for his efforts.
Who’s in Goal:
When a team wins a game 6-2 goaltending may sometimes get overlooked, but in the case of last night Coleman Vollrath was certainly a positive story for his squad. Vollrath faced 36 shots and made 34 saves for his 17th victory of the season. The 20-year-old is now 8-3 lifetime against the Cougars. He certainly played well enough Sunday to warrant another start, but his young backup Griffen Outhouse could very well get the nod as well given how well he performed before the break in Prince George back on December 18th.
In all three games against the Cougars this season the Royals have started strong, and subsequently they’ve scored the first goal in all three meetings against the Cougars this season. How important is that first goal in a hockey game? The Cougars have won 15 of their 20 games when they strike first and they are 6-8-1-0 when the opponent gets the first goal. You can bet that the Royals will be pressing for another fast start when the puck drops for the rematch tonight.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars are coming into tonight’s game with an overall record of 21-12-1-1. Their 44 points still put them 10 points ahead of their pace from a season ago. Over their past 10 games the Cougars have put together a record of 7-3 and should still feel very good about their recent run despite last night’s tough outing. The Cougars are 1-2 against Victoria this season and are 0-1 at Save on Foods Memorial Centre. An important stat to take note of: The Prince George Cougars have not lost two games of a double-header in regulation time this season. A victory tonight keeps that trend alive.
Who’s Up Front:
Offensively it wasn’t a banner night for anyone for the Prince George Cougars, but Chase Witala still found a way to get onto the score sheet with his team high 22nd of the season, and sophomore Kody McDonald went to the net hard in the third period and was rewarded with his seventh goal of the season. Lately the Prince George Cougars best players HAVE been their best players more often than not, so tonight a positive response is expected as they have shown time and time again this season that they can be counted upon to produce at both ends of the ice for the Cougars.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Cougars struggled last night, particularly in the first period when Victoria struck four times unanswered. Last night’s defensive effort was likely more of a blip than anything, and the veterans especially have shown this season that they are able to bounce back after tough games. Credit the Royals who skated hard and forced the Cougars into making mistakes, but let’s be clear: Last night’s game was NOT the identity of the 2015-16 Prince George Cougars. Similar to the forward corps, you can expect a much more complete effort tonight from the Cougars defensively. There’s way too much skill, toughness and pride back there to let something like this become habitual.
Who’s in Goal:
All season long the Prince George Cougars have had terrific goaltending from both Ty Edmonds and Nick McBride, so one less than stellar outing shouldn’t be cause for any concern. Goaltenders at all levels have rough outings, but the mark of a strong goaltender is the ability to bounce back and face adversity head on. Both goaltenders are more than capable, and you can bet that whoever gets the nod tonight is going to be counted upon to provide the Cougars with the necessary goaltending to win a game.
Tonight the Cougars need confidence, and they’ll get that confidence with a strong start. Earlier in the preview it was mentioned that the Royals have scored first in all three meetings between these two clubs this season, and that’s a trend that no doubt the Cougars are aware of, and that’s also something that they’ll look to put a stop to tonight in the rematch with the Royals. Confidence wise the Cougars should feel good knowing that they’ve responded well to adversity and losses all season long, and here’s hoping that tonight is no exception as the Cougars take aim at their 22nd victory tonight.