Cougars in Kamloops Tonight
Tonight at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops the Prince George Cougars will look to put last night’s loss behind them.
Last night’s home game against Moose Jaw was strange in that the Cougars played a strong game, but lost and perhaps the law of averages was at play given that the Cougars were nowhere near their best during their five game winning streak and yet they continued to find ways to win.
Tonight the stakes are huge for the Cougars as they lock horns with the Kamloops Blazers for a third time this season. The Blazers have won three straight and are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10, and they head into tonight’s game three points ahead of Kelowna for second, and nine points back of the Cougars for first with a game in hand. A win for the Cougars gives them double-digit separation, and a win for Kamloops moves them right back to within striking distance. The push towards the post season is officially here and tonight’s game should be heated to say the least.
Home Record: 18-6-1-0
Last Game: A 4-3 shootout victory over the Portland Winterhawks last night at home
Goals For/Goals Against: 159 GF/124 GA
Power Play: 17.7% (15th in the WHL)
Penalty Kill: 82.7% (3rd in the WHL)
Leading Scorers: Deven Sideroff (45GP – 26G – 24A – 50PTS), Lane Bauer (46GP – 25G – 21A – 46PTS), Rudolfs Balcers (41GP – 25G – 19A – 44PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Garrett Pilon: The Washington Capitals prospect had a goal and an assist last night for Portland and now has goals in back-to-back games for Kamloops. In 10 games against the Cougars last season he registered a goal and seven assists. This season the sophomore has 11 goals and 32 assists for 43 points in 41 games.
Deven Sideroff: The speedy forward leads all Kamloops scorers with 26 goals and 50 total points. His 26 goals is already a new season high for him and he’ll look to keep his strong offensive season going tonight against Prince George. He’s got two goals and two assists over the span of his most recent three games, all of which have been Kamloops victories.
WHO’S ON D:
Joe Gatenby: The 19-year-old has done a little bit of everything this season for Kamloops. He leads all Blazer defenders in points with six goals and 22 assists and he’s been a key power play contributor scoring three goals and adding 13 assists. He will likely see the most ice time among Kamloops defenders.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Connor Ingram/Dylan Ferguson: Flip a coin, because either guy can steal a game for Kamloops. Ingram needs no introduction. The Tampa Bay prospect represented Canada at the World Juniors and is 16-9-1-0 this season with two shutouts, a 2.11 goals-against-average and a staggering .935 save percentage. Ferguson though played tremendously well for Kamloops in Ingram’s absence and is 12-7-0-2 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.82 goals-against-average. For what it’s worth, Ingram played last night against Portland.
Collin Shirley: Though he’s not quite on pace to match his 37 goals from a season ago, Collin Shirley is still a game-changer. Last season he posted eight goals and nine assists for 17 points in 10 games for Kamloops against Prince George and this season he’s got 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points in 45 games played. He’s the captain and the inspirational leader for his team.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Road Record: 17-6-1-0
Last Game: A 2-1 loss at home last night against Moose Jaw
Goals For/Goals Against: 166 GF/132 GA
Power Play: 15.7% (20th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (2nd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Nikita Popugaev (49GP – 24G – 33A – 57PTS), Jansen Harkins (42GP – 14G – 34A – 48PTS), Brad Morrison (47 GP – 19G – 26A – 45PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Colby McAuley: The 20-year-old is having the best statistical season of his WHL career. The Sherwood Park, AB product now has 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points and is a +12. He had the only goal of the game for the Cougars last night and has recorded at least a single point in his past four games. A game like tonight’s is where Colby McAuley can really be a difference maker thanks to his hustle and physicality.
Jansen Harkins: Coming into tonight’s game the Winnipeg Jets prospect has a five game point streak going and has four goals and four assists in that span. With an assist last night, Harkins moved to within three assists of a new franchise record for that category and his 218 career points mean that he’s just 22 shy of setting a new franchise record.
WHO’S ON D:
Josh Anderson: The Colorado Avalanche prospect can really make his mark in a game like tonight. It’s going to be fast, it’s going to be physical and those are the types of games where Josh Anderson seems to thrive in. Anderson is at his best when he’s playing mean, and it’ll be important for Anderson to help set a tone for the Cougars on the road in a loud building against a division rival. Anderson has six assists this season and is a +5.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Flip a coin: Does Ty Edmonds get his second start in as many nights? He was good last night at home, and took a hard-luck loss after stopping 20 of 22 shots. Or does Nick McBride get the go? He’s won each of his past two starts, but has surrendered five goals against in each. Tonight, perhaps more than anything the Cougars goaltender has to be a positive factor. With their fourth game in five nights given all of the hectic travel and play as of late, whoever gets the tap on the pads will likely need to be a star of the game in order to help the Cougars to their third straight victory against Kamloops.
Energy: Tonight the Cougars will play their fourth game in five nights, their eight game in 12 nights and their 10th game over the past 16 days. Any way you slice it that’s a ton of hockey. Hey, this is junior hockey and each team has to battle with scheduling adversity at times. But to suggest that this type of travel won’t take it’s toll on a young athlete is ludacris. Tonight the Cougars simply need to give it their all and need to try and match the Blazers worth ethic as best as possible. In almost every plausible way this game favors Kamloops, so it will be up to the Cougars to simply ‘find a way’ tonight on the road.