Cougars Continue Homestand vs Giants
Last weekend didn’t quite go as planned for the Prince George Cougars who dropped both games of a home double-header for just the second time this season. The Kelowna Rockets came in and were full marks securing all four points in their games with the Cougars, and now the Cougars will look to avoid their first three game losing streak of the season when they clash with the Vancouver Giants tonight at home. Yes the Giants have had their struggles as of late dropping each of their past seven games, but this season the Giants have been a thorn in the Cougars side and have given Richard Matvichuk’s team some of their toughest tests this season. The Giants are going to be anything but a pushover and the Cougars will need to be at their best when they drop the puck with Vancouver tonight in the first of a double-header.
Road Record: 7-17-0-1
Last Game: A 1-0 loss Saturday in Everett
Goals For/Goals Against: 147 GF/207 GA
Power Play: 13.7% (22nd in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 74.5% (21st in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (49GP – 20G – 22A – 42PTS), Tyler Benson (33GP – 11G – 31A – 42PTS), James Malm (50GP – 17G – 22A – 39PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Ty Ronning: The New York Rangers prospect leads the Giants in scoring with 20 goals and 42 points, and also leads all active Giants in scoring against the Cougars with five points in four games against them this season. Ronning is one of the few elder statesmen on this young Giants team and his experience and leadership are going to be very important down the stretch for this team as they build towards next season.
James Malm: The 17-year-old forward is very shifty and gifted offensively. Malm has 17 goals along with 22 assists for 39 points and is easy to notice due to his hustle and his intensity. Malm’s size might be viewed as a hindrance to some, but he doesn’t let it affect him negatively. He’s got a very bright future ahead of him both in this league and this game.
WHO’S ON D:
Dylan Plouffe: The 17-year-old Plouffe has had to play major minutes in his sophomore season due in large part to a barrage of injuries to the Giants back-end. To his credit, the product of Sherwood Park, AB has embraced the challenge and has put together a strong second season in the WHL. Heading into tonight Plouffe has four goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 47 games which puts him second among Giants defensemen in scoring. The Cougars can expect a steady dose of Plouffe in tonight’s game.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ryan Kubic: Aside from one rough outing against the Cougars, Ryan Kubic has put forth some strong efforts this season against Prince George. His record against PG is 1-2-1-1 and his 3.73 goals-against-average and .897 save percentage are respectable. His record for the season is 14-23-2-3 with a 3.47 goals-against-averege and an .896 save percentage.
The Spoiler Role: The Vancouver Giants are all about next season and all about developing their young players. That means that there’s really nothing more for them to lose at this point. Jason McKee’s team has shown some strong resolve all season long, particularly against the Cougars. Four of the five games that the Cougars have won against Vancouver have been decided by a single goal. There’s no substitute for work ethic and passion and you can absolutely expect the Giants to bring a ton of that, despite the youth and inexperience on their roster.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Home Record: 16-9-1-0
Last Game: A 5-1 loss at home Saturday against Kelowna
Goals For/Goals Against: 191 GF/155 GA
Power Play: 16.5% (20th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 84.3% (2nd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Nikita Popugaev (54GP – 24G – 35A – 59PTS), Jansen Harkins (49GP – 16G – 38A – 54PTS), Brad Morrison (54GP – 20G – 28A – 48PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jesse Gabrielle: With 25 goals now for the season and 100 for his career, Jesse Gabrielle has scored in back-to-back games and seems to be on the brink of ‘breaking out’ offensively. With 44 points in 44 games the signed Boston Bruins prospect is a threat to score every time he takes the ice and he’ll look to make it three straight games with a goal or two tonight.
Nikita Popugaev: To suggest that the big Russian forward is due would be an understatement. He’s now gone nine games without a goal, but has come close in recent games. There’s way too much talent and skill there for him to stay cold for long, and perhaps tonight could be the night where Popugaev explodes for a goal or three.
WHO’S ON D:
Tate Olson: So far this season the Vancouver Canucks prospect has a goal and three assists in six games against Vancouver. With Brendan Guhle still listed as ‘day-to-day’ with a lower body injury it’s going to be paramount for the likes of Olson to step up his game and fill the void. When Olson it at his best he’s one of the most underrated two-way defencemen in the WHL and he’ll get plenty of opportunity tonight and tomorrow against the Giants to lead the way.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Nick McBride: The Maple Ridge, BC product has won each of his past four starts and brings a record of 10-4-1-0 into tonight. So far this season McBride is 2-1 against the Giants will look to continue building up some positive traction for himself in 2017. Richard Matvichuk said earlier today that he has zero qualms about starting McBride tomorrow night as well if he plays well tonight. Tonight marks a big opportunity for Nick to take the ball and run with it for a little while given some of the recent struggles for Ty Edmonds.
Compete!: Nothing will work if you don’t. If the Cougars think that tonight’s going to be easy they are sadly mistaken. If the Cougars bring their work boots, compete hard and play to their strengths they are going to give themselves an excellent chance to win. It’s as simple as that.