Cougars Seek Weekend Split
Tonight in Prince George the Cougars get one more crack at the Victoria Royals during the regular season. The season series between the two sides has been very Jekyll and Hyde. The Cougars rattled off three straight victories against the Royals (September 23rd, 24th and December 2nd) but have since fallen in four consecutive games against their B.C. Division rivals (December 3rd, 27th, 28th and January 6th) and have been outscored 12-3 in the process. Last night’s 2-1 score was somewhat flattering for a Cougars team looking to bounce back tonight to earn a split for the weekend and a split for the regular season against the Royals.
Road Record: 10-7-3-0
Last Game: A 2-1 victory in Prince George last night against the Cougars.
Goals For/Goals Against: 137 GF/118 GA
Power Play: 19.3% (12th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.9% (8th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Matthew Phillips (39GP – 26G – 22A – 48 PTS), Jack Walker (39GP – 20G – 26A – 46PTS), Dante Hannoun (41GP – 15G – 23A – 38PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Regan Nagy: The Ogema, SK product had a goal and an assist in last night’s game and is now in the midst of a five game point streak. During that span he’s scored twice and added six assists. For the season the 19-year-old has already set new career highs for goals (12) and points (27). He leads all Royals with two goals and four assists for six points in seven games against the Cougars.
Vladimir Bobylev: The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect scored a power play goal last night and now has two goals and four assists for six points in eight games since returning to Victoria from the KHL. Both of his goals this season have come against the Cougars and tonight he’ll look for more of the same.
WHO’S ON D:
Scott Walford: Given the absence of Chaz Reddekopp it forced some of the younger defencemen to step up and contribute bigger minutes and perhaps nobody did so quite like Scott Walford. The sophomore defenceman has a goal and nine assists for 10 points in 32 games this season and played a very poised and calm game last night. He’s eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Griffen Outhouse: In his past three appearances against the Cougars, Griffen Outhouse has faced 109 shots. He’s stopped 107 of them. He’s red hot. There’s no other way to put it. Admittedly Outhouse wasn’t tested last night nearly to the degree that he was in both Victoria games, but he still came up big when he needed to plus he got some help from his goal posts. There’s zero reason to suggest that it won’t be Outhouse once again getting the call in goal tonight.
Momentum: The Royals have now won five straight games and four straight against the Cougars dating back to December 3rd. Right now this team is confident and wired to win. The biggest thing tonight for them will be to maintain that urgency and do it again against a Cougars club that’s going to be very snarly in response.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Home Record: 13-6-1-0
Last Game: A 2-1 loss last night at home to Victoria
Goals For/Goals Against: 135 GF/104 GA
Power Play: 16.3% (17th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 87.4% (1st in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Nikita Popugaev (41GP – 22G – 30A – 52PTS), Jansen Harkins (34GP – 9G – 30A – 39PTS), Brad Morrison (39GP – 16G – 22A – 38PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Kody McDonald: The 18-year-old from Lethbridge, AB loves playing the Royals. In seven games this season he’s got four goals and two assists for six points and is tied with Brad Morrison for the points lead in games played against the Royals. For the season McDonald now has nine goals and 27 points which puts him sixth in team scoring.
Nikita Popugaev: The newcomer recorded an assist on McDonald’s third period goal and all-in-all looked very strong in his Cougars debut. His transition is bound to take some time, but there’s no denying that he’s a presence out there. He’s big, skilled and skates well with the puck. The Cougars acquired a good one and it’s just a matter of time before he gets his feet wet in Northern, B.C.
WHO’S ON D:
Brendan Guhle: Hit a post in the final minute of last night’s game and really came into his own in the third period of the game. Collectively it wasn’t a banner night for any of the Cougars defensively, but Guhle and company are poised to respond positively tonight. Similar to December 30th in Everett, the Cougars need their top players to rise to the occasion and if Guhle leads, the rest shall surely follow.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Flip a Coin: Ty Edmonds was brilliant last night and was far and away the best Cougar. His play certainly warrants consideration for another start tonight, but perhaps Richard Matvichuk will go with Nick McBride who’s won two of his past three starts and was solid even in defeat back on December 28th in Victoria. That night he made 22 saves on 25 shots.
A full 60: The final 20 was great, and spurts of the second period were encouraging, but all together last night’s collective effort wasn’t good enough for the Cougars. Tonight they’ll need to be better in all areas, and the coaches made it no secret after the game that it’s going to take complete buy-in from everybody to make it happen.