Cougars Host Rockets
After a long and winding month of January the Prince George Cougars have arrived home in Northern B.C. and can finally unpack their bags for an extended period of time. After a 9-4-1-0 month of January the Cougars are now gearing up for a month of February where they will play nine of their next 11 games at home. Heading into this weekend the Cougars are nine points ahead of Kamloops for first in their division and five points ahead of Everett for first in the Western Conference. The home stretch of the season has officially arrived and tonight the Cats kick off their six game home stand when they square off with the Kelowna Rockets for the first of back-to-back games.
Road Record: 15-10-2-0
Last Game: An 8-2 victory at home Wednesday against Calgary
Goals For/Goals Against: 178 GF/156 GA
Power Play: 23.2% (6th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 78.9% (12th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Kole Lind (49GP – 22G – 39A – 61PTS), Calvin Thurkauf (39GP – 24G – 22A – 46PTS), Tomas Soustal (42GP – 15G – 25A – 40PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Kole Lind: The draft eligible forward from Shaunavon, SK is having a remarkable second season in the WHL. So far this season he leads all Rockets with 61 points and sits second on the team in goals with 22. 19 of his points have come via the power play which means that the Cats will need to key on him if they ever find themselves down a man.
Nick Merkley: Don’t look now but Nick Merkley is starting to heat up. The Arizona Coyotes first rounder has three goals and six assists for nine points over his past three games. So far this season he’s registered 38 points in 42 games and has one assist against the Cougars in the only game he’s played against them so far.
WHO’S ON D:
Cal Foote: With five goals and 35 assists for 40 points, draft eligible defenceman Cal Foote has really put it all together for the Rockets this season. At 6’4″ and 210 pounds Foote is a shoe-in to hear his name called in the early rounds of the upcoming draft and he leads all Rocket defencemen in scoring with 40 points. His +20 is tops among all Kelowna defencemen. He’ll see a ton of minutes tonight for Kelowna in all situations.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Michael Herringer/Brodan Salmond: Veteran 20-year-old Michael Herringer gives his team a chance to win every night. So far this season he’s registered a 21-12-3-0 record with a .900 save percentage and a 2.92 goals-against-average and one shutout. His backup is 18-year-old Brodan Salmond who has played well in a backup role. Salmond is 7-7-1-0 this season. Could we see each goaltender get a look this weekend?
Reid Gardiner: The Cougars have yet to face the Rockets with Gardiner in their lineup. The 20-year-old has scored three goals and added five assists for eight points since joining the Rockets from the AHL. The former Prince Albert Raider had 43 goals last season and 109 goals for his career. He adds instant offense and leadership to the Rockets and will be given ample opportunity to produce tonight for Kelowna.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Home Record: 16-7-1-0
Last Game: A 3-1 victory Sunday in Edmonton
Goals For/Goals Against: 188 GF/147 GA
Power Play: 17.1% (20th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 84.8% (2nd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Nikita Popugaev (52GP – 25G – 35A – 59PTS), Jansen Harkins (47GP – 16G – 38A – 54PTS), Brad Morrison (52GP – 20G – 28A – 48PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Nikita Popugaev: The Cats leading scorer suited up for Team Orr in the 2017 Sherwin-Williams prospect game Monday in Quebec and played well in a 7-5 loss. He recorded an assist and played big minutes alongside Nico Hischier and Kailer Yamamoto. Popugaev has only scored twice since joining the Cougars and could be poised for a big weekend offensively. He’ll start the game alongside Brad Morrison and there’s no telling how crafty and creative those two could be playing together.
Jansen Harkins: The Cougars all-time assists leader had a great month of January. He finished the month with 16 points in 14 games, which led the team. Richard Matvichuk has not been the least bit shy of using Jansen Harkins, Colby McAuley and Radovan Bondra a ton, and deservedly so. Those three are going to be tasked with big minutes this weekend against a hungry Rockets club that’s looking to gain ground in the standings.
WHO’S ON D:
Sam Ruopp: The Cougars captain can expect to play a ton tonight in all situations against a very balanced Kelowna attack. With three goals and 13 assists on the season, Ruopp has chipped in offensively along with a +17 rating which is tied for the top spot on the team. He’s the inspirational leader for this team and he’ll need to be at his best in what should be a phenomenal set of games this weekend.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: Tonight in Prince George Ty Edmonds has a chance to make history. One more victory and Ty Edmonds will become the all-time franchise leader in wins for a Cougars goaltender with 96. So far this season against Kelowna he’s 3-0 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.33 goals-against-average. Historically he’s been very strong throughout his career against the Rockets and hopefully tonight can be another unforgettable night in what has proven to be a memorable career for Ty Edmonds in a Cougars uniform.
Home Ice Swagger: It’s been two full weeks since the Cougars last played a game at home so there are bound to be some nerves, but the Cougars need to embrace the home crowd and let home ice play as much of an advantage as best as possible. The Rockets are a veteran-laden team that are not intimidated easily, so it’ll be important for the Cougars to stay within themselves and play a poised, structured home game against their division rivals.