Cougars Set for Rematch With Kamloops
Last night’s game in Prince George had no shortage of drama and intrigue. Perhaps fittingly the Prince George Cougars and Kamloops Blazers continued their trend of wacky and high scoring games last night with the Cougars taking the game by a 9-4 score. The victory moved the Cougars seven points ahead of Kamloops for third place in the B.C. Division and also got the Cougars back within a single point of second place. But don’t think for one single second that the Kamloops Blazers are going to roll over. They’re a strong team with a lot of character and they’ll be primed for the rematch tonight. History has shown that sweeping double headers is difficult to do, particularly against divisional opponents.
Don Hay’s Kamloops Blazers come into tonight’s game with an overall record of 22-17-4-3. Their 51 points put them fourth in the B.C. Division and seventh in the Western Conference. Their overall record against the Cougars is now 4-2-0-1 but they’ve dropped three straight of those contests. In their past 10 games they are 4-3-1-2. At the moment the Blazers are comfortably secured in one of the wild card playoff spots, but a victory tonight would only further entrench that safety as they look to avoid the weekend sweep.
Who’s Up Front:
With a goal and two assists last night, Anaheim Ducks prospect Deven Sideroff led the charge offensively for Kamloops. In 11 games January games, Sideroff has now scored five goals and added seven assists and in seven games against the Cougars this season, Sideroff has now tallied three goals and added six assists for nine points. Sideroff’s biggest weapon: Speed, and he uses it well. His shot is also deceptively quick. He and linemates Jiri Smejkel and Garrett Pilon played well last night in the loss, and you can bet that they’ll be looking for a repeat performance in the rematch tonight.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Kamloops Blazers collectively are looking to rebound tonight after surrendering nine goals against a night ago. Last night’s loss aside, the Blazers are a confident team defensively and they’ve got a good mix of size, speed and skill back there that play the game with a ton of passion and pride and they are no doubt going to be looking for some retribution. The best way to get revenge for them is by answering the bell physically, maintaining a sense of discipline and moving the puck quickly to the forwards. Last night Ryan Rehill, Ondrej Vala and Dallas Valentine logged huge minutes for the Blazers, and odds are those three will be expected to carry a brunt of the load again tonight.
Who’s in Goal:
The entire complexion of last night’s game changed in a big way when Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram left the game mid-way through the second period with an injury. At that time the game was 3-2 for the Cougars and plenty was still to be decided. In came backup Dylan Ferguson who made some terrific saves, but also allowed six goals in 17 shots faced. The big question obviously heading into tonight’s rematch is the health of Connor Ingram and whether he will able to suit up and play in tonight’s rematch. Obviously there’s a different mindset heading into a game when you know that your workhorse number one guy is healthy and confident, and certainly the return of Ingram would provide a major boost for the psyche of the Kamloops Blazers. Time will eventually tell.
Tonight’s game marks the third game in four nights for a Blazers team that are already missing some key personnel with injuries. With the status of Connor Ingram and Matt Needham still up in the air for tonight’s game it will be very important for the leadership group and the veterans especially on this Blazers team to lead the way. Nothing fancy is required when winning on the road and tonight it will be important for Kamloops to manage their energy, stay disciplined and convert on their chances.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars come into tonight’s game looking to build some positive momentum after last night’s 9-4 victory. Last night’s victory for the Cougars was their fifth in January, their 16th at home and their 28th overall giving them an overall record of 28-17-1-1. They are currently 16 points ahead of their pace from a season ago, and are now just four victories shy of surpassing their win total from 2014-15. The Cougars are 3-3-0-1 against the Blazers and are 2-0-0-1 against them in three games played so far this season at the CN Centre.
Who’s Up Front:
Eight Prince George Cougars had multi-point games last night against the Blazers making it difficult to highlight just one or two players that the Blazers will need to key on in tonight’s rematch. But with that said it’s that type of depth that makes the Cougars a difficult opponent to play against because on any given night, anybody can beat you. Colby McAuley and Luke Harrison each had three points and were both +2 which is impressive considering that often McAuley, Harrison and Kody McDonald spent a majority of their minutes defending the opposing team’s top players. When those three contribute offensively (which they’ve done a ton this season) it’s a nice bonus for a Cougars team that has now scored the fifth most goals in the entire WHL and the second most goals in the Western Conference.
Who’s on D:
Before last night’s game this preview hinted at the importance of some of the Cougars depth defencemen stepping up and playing big minutes given the absence of Josh Anderson. Well last night against Kamloops the Cougars d-men did a terrific job. Shane Collins had a goal, an assist and was a +3, Shaun Dosanjh played a mean and spirited game, and in the final minutes of the third rookie Joel Lakusta scored his first ever WHL goal on a power play. On most nights you know that you’re going to get a terrific performance from the likes of Sam Ruopp, Tate Olson and Joe Carvalho and when guys like Collins, Dosanjh and Lakusta can compliment those guys with big plays and valuable minutes, it goes a long way from a confidence perspective. Here’s hoping for another strong outing from the Cougars defencemen as a whole tonight in the rematch.
Who’s in Goal:
With last night’s victory, Cougars veteran netminder Ty Edmonds earned his 64th career victory which now ties him for second all-time for victories by a Cougars netminder (he joins Billy Thompson). A victory tonight gives Edmonds sole possession of second, and would then move him to within 30 victories of Scott Myers who with 95 career wins in a Cougars uniform holds the record. Edmonds has made it no secret that the record would mean a lot to him, and while his statistics have taken a small dip lately, the bottom line is: Ty Edmonds wins hockey games. The Cougars will need a big effort from him tonight in the rematch, and no doubt he’s capable of providing that.
s Don’t look now but the Prince George Cougars power play is hot! The Cougars have gone six for their last 12 on the power play and even though they started the week in 20th in the WHL they now sit 14th. Specials teams is often the difference between winning and losing games and given how consistent the penalty kill has been this season it’s great to see the power play gaining some traction as well. Special teams are once again to be a big factor in tonight’s result, and hopefully the Cougars can continue their positive trends in both areas tonight.