Cougars and T-Birds Battle Tonight
Nothing fans the flame of a rivalry quite like the playoffs. For the Prince George Cougars and Seattle Thunderbirds there is surely no love lost between the two sides after last season’s first round playoff match-up. Yes the T-Birds made short work of the Cougars winning the series in four straight, but those who watched the series closely knew full-well that the series (aside from possibly Game 3) had a ‘sweep’ feel to it. Since March of 2016 both teams have changed, yet enough key pieces from that series remain which should make for an interesting double-header this weekend back in Prince George.
Road Record: 8-6-2-0
Last Game: 6-1 loss Wednesday in Kelowna
Goals For/Goals Against: 90 GF/84 GA
Power Play: 18.8% (14th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 81.9% (7th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Scott Eansor (28GP – 14G – 16A – 30PTS), Ethan Bear (26GP – 10G – 15A – 25PTS), Nolan Volcan (28GP – 11G – 11A – 22PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Scott Eansor: Is there a more underrated player in the WHL? What Eansor lacks in size he more than makes up for with heart, speed and leadership. The 20-year-old leads the T-Birds with 14 goals and 30 points.
Nolan Volcan: Had two goals in last season’s series clinching game, including the OT winner. He’s had a nice start to the season posting 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points in 28 games.
WHO’S ON D:
Ethan Bear: The Edmonton Oilers prospect currently sits third in the WHL in goals among defencemen with 10. Last season he finished fifth in league scoring among d-men (64 points) and fifth in goals (19). He logs minutes in all situations for Seattle.
Turner Ottenbreit: The 19-year-old is one of the game’s hardest hitters and he’s added more offense to his arsenal this season. Coming into tonight he’s got three goals and 11 assists for 14 points. Ethan Bear, Jared Hauf and Jerret Smith may have gotten the headlines last season on the back-end but Ottenbreit was remarkably steady and continues to log big minutes for his team this season.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Rylan Toth: The 20-year-old had a rough go on Wednesday as he surrendered five goals against on 23 shots faced in a 6-1 loss in Kelowna. For the season he is 11-10-1-0 with a 3.08 goals-against-average and an .886 save percentage.
Matt Berlin: The 18-year-old has played sparingly but has played well. His 3-0-1-0 record is complimented by a 1.95 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage.
Mathew Barzal: The New York Islanders prospect has posted two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in 12 games since rejoining the T-Birds from the NHL. He’s arguably the top play-maker in the WHL and has proven himself as a big-game player at this level. The only real question is: Will he play one, two or zero games this weekend in Prince George with Canada’s World Junior camp slated to begin on Sunday, December 11th in Quebec.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Home Record: 10-4-1-0
Last Game: A 5-1 win at home against the Brandon Wheat Kings
Goals For/Goals Against: 107 GF/77 GA
Power Play: 17.6% (17th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 85.9% (2nd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Jansen Harkins (24GP – 6G – 24A – 30PTS), Jesse Gabrielle (24GP – 18G – 11A – 29 PTS), Brad Morrison (29GP – 11G – 18PTS – 29GP)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jesse Gabrielle: Had two goals against his former team on Wednesday and remains the Cougars goal-scoring leader with 18. Earlier this season in Seattle Gabrielle had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 Cougars shootout victory at the ShoWare Center.
Jansen Harkins: Fresh off recording his 200th career WHL point on Wednesday the Cougars leading scorer looks to continue his strong play against Seattle. He led all Cougars during the playoffs with five points in four games against the T-Birds and had a goal against Seattle earlier this season in October.
WHO’S ON D:
Joel Lakusta: Notched his first goal of the season and was +4 against Brandon on Wednesday. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and leads all Cougars d-men in plus-minus this season with a +9 rating.
Tate Olson: Had an assist on Wednesday and also finished a +4. His 13 points lead all Cougars defencemen and tonight he’ll be looking to follow up Wednesday’s strong game with another as he gets set to tangle with the T-Birds.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: Ty Edmonds gives the Cougars a chance to win every night he’s played. Wednesday he wasn’t tested a lot, but still managed to make key saves at key times to help lead the Cougars to their 21st win and his 17th of the season.
Discipline: The Cougars only took one minor penalty on Wednesday against the Wheat Kings and as such they dominated most of the game. The T-Birds have a ton of fire power and skill in their arsenal and are going to make life very difficult on the Cougars if they’re given numerous power play chances. If the Cougars keep tonight’s game five-on-five or better they’re going to give themselves an excellent chance.