Cougars Look to Slay Giants …..Again
Tonight in Prince George the Cougars wrap up their season series with their B.C. Division rivals, the Vancouver Giants. Last night the Giants fought valiantly against a much older experienced Cougars team, but a two goal third period and a Jesse Gabrielle Gordie Howe Hat-Trick helped pace the Cougars to a 4-1 victory – Their 37th victory in 56 games. Heading into tonight’s rematch the Cougars now hold an eight point lead for the B.C. Division and a five point lead for the Western Conference. Both Everett and Kamloops are in action tonight which means that the Cougars will need to win in order to, at the very least, maintain their division and conference leads.
Road Record: 7-18-0-1
Last Game: A 4-1 loss in Prince George last night
Goals For/Goals Against: 148 GF/211 GA
Power Play: 13.6% (22nd in the WHL)
Penalty Kill: 74.9% (21st in the WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (50GP – 20G – 22A – 42PTS), Tyler Benson (33GP – 11G – 31A – 42PTS), James Malm (51GP – 17G – 22A – 39PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jack Flaman: Jack Flaman’s 13 goals for the season rank him third among all Giants. The 19-year-old is one of just a are few players on the Giants roster over the age of 19 and has done a great job this season of bringing a strong and consistent workman-like effort to his team. Four of his 13 goals this season have come against Prince George including their only goal a night ago.
James Malm: The 17-year-old forward was held off the score sheet last night, but buzzed around the ice and did his best to help create offense for his club. With 17 goals and 39 total points, Malm has had a very strong second season in the WHL and seems poised for a very productive offensive career in the WHL. The biggest key for young players like Malm is just to make sure that they don’t get discouraged easily by losses and that they continue bringing strong work habits, etc. to the rink of a game-by-game basis. That doesn’t appear to be any issue for the young shifty forward.
WHO’S ON D:
Jeff Rayman: Rayman is one of just two 20-year-olds on the Giants roster, and because of his age he’s expected to log major minutes in all situations for Vancouver. The pride of Fernie, B.C. has carved out a nice WHL career for himself, and when all is said and done he’ll have over 200 games to his credit with Spokane, Tri-City and Vancouver. He’s a big example of the type of grit and leadership that will be necessary for the Giants in the seasons to come.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ryan Kubic?: The Giants starter from a night ago could not be faulted for his team’s loss. He turned aside 29 of the 33 shots fired his way and to his credit he kept his team within striking distance through two periods. Time will ultimately tell whether the 18-year-old from St. Andrews, MB will get the nod tonight or whether rookie David Tendeck will get a crack at the Cougars. Tendeck’s last action was January 28th in Victoria.
Positivity: Yet again the Giants refused to roll over for the Cougars. Last night through 40 minutes it was truly anybody’s game until Nikita Popugaev broke the game open when a terrific goal early in the third for Prince George. The Giants are now trapped in an eight game losing streak and it’s only natural that a bit of doubt and negativity might creep into their minds, but as long as they continue to work hard and battle for every inch of ice, they’re going to continue to give the Cougars a tough time, which could ultimately lead to their 18th victory of the season tonight.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Home Record: 17-9-1-0
Last Game: A 4-1 victory at home last night against Vancouver
Goals For/Goals Against: 195 GF/156 GA
Power Play: 16.3% (20th in the WHL)
Penalty Kill: 84.5% (2nd in the WHL)
Leading Scorers: Nikita Popugaev (55GP – 25G – 35A – 60PTS), Jansen Harkins (49GP – 16G – 38A – 54PTS), Brad Morrison (55GP – 20G – 28A – 48PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jesse Gabrielle: The signed Boston Bruins prospect recorded a goal, two assists and a fight last night to secure a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick. He now has 26 goals and 47 points total for his season and has five goals and five assists for 10 points in six games against the Giants. Certain players seem to ‘get up’ for certain teams and Gabrielle always seems to relish playing the Giants.
Nikita Popugaev: Early in the third period Nikita Popugaev provided some insurance for the Cougars with his 25th of the season, and he did so with a picture perfect wrist shot that bound it’s way past Ryan Kubic and in. That goal was huge for Popugaev’s confidence as it helped snap a nine game goal-scoring slump. Here’s hoping the floodgates are open and Popugaev’s confidence can build after a solid game a night ago.
WHO’S ON D:
Sam Ruopp: With Brendan Guhle still sidelined with an injury, Sam Ruopp did what he had to do to lead the charge from the back-end last night. The Cougars captain recorded two assists, was a +2 and held his own physically as he often does. A big game for Ruopp will be important again for the Cats as they seek their 38th victory of the season.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: Tonight the Cougars 20-year-old netminder will get another shot at history as he looks to become the all-time wins leader among Cougar goaltenders. His most recent outing on Saturday against Kelowna was a tough one for everybody including Edmonds, and tonight he’ll look to bounce back. For the season Edmonds record remains an impressive 26-12-2-0 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.49 goals-against average.
Trending Upwards: If the Cougars can harness the intensity and the energy that they put forward in the third period last night and implement that from the drop of the puck tonight, they’re going to give themselves a very good chance to win. Prior to puck drop last night Richard Matvichuk harped on the fact that the ‘leaders needed to lead’ and they followed suit. Let’s see what that looks like in the rematch and the final meeting with the Giants this season.