Cougars Set for Playoff Opener
Tonight the slate is wiped clean. All of the individual and team accolades and records achieved by the Prince George Cougars will get shoved to the back-burner as Round 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs begins. For the Prince George Cougars it marks the first time since 1999-2000 that they’ve started a series at home, and also marks the third time in the club’s 23 year history that they’ve faced the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL Playoffs. Everybody in PG seems to have caught the playoff fever, and it should be a wonderful atmosphere at the CN Centre tonight for Game 1.
Regular Season Record: 40-28-1-3
Regular Season Road Record: 18-16-0-2
Last Game: A 7-2 loss at home to Spokane last Sunday
Regular Season Goals For/Goals Against: 278 GF/256 GA
Regular Season Power Play: 24.8% (4th in WHL)
Regular Season Penalty Kill: 80.2% (8th in WHL)
Regular Season Leading Scorers: Cody Glass (69GP – 32G – 62A – 94PTS), Skyler McKenzie (72GP – 42G – 42A – 84PTS), Keegan Iverson (55GP – 26G – 44A – 70PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Cody Glass: The sophomore forward from Winnipeg led all Winterhawks with 94 points this season. In three games against the Cougars this season, the draft eligible forward had three goals and two assists.
Skyler McKenzie: The third year forward from Sherwood Park, AB led all Portland forwards with 42 goals and he finished second in team scoring with 84 points. It was an impressive season for McKenzie considering that a season ago he had eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points. He had two goals and an assist against the Cougars in four games.
WHO’S ON D:
Caleb Jones: In 63 games this season, Caleb Jones led all Winterhawk defenders with nine goals and 62 total points. The Edmonton Oilers prospect helped guide Team USA to a gold medal in the 2017 World Juniors and will log major minutes in all situations for Portland in this series.
Henri Jokiharu: The draft eligible d-man led all Winterhawks with a goal and six assists for seven points against the Cougars this season. The 17-year-old had a strong rookie season scoring nine goals while adding 39 assists and finished +14.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Cole Kehler: The 19-year-old appeared in 56 games for Portland this season and finished with a record of 32-17-0-3. In three appearances against the Cougars, Kehler was 2-0-0-1 with a 3.89 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage.
Keegan Iverson: The Winterhawks captain is a big-time presence and will be a big factor in this series for Portland. At 6’2″ and 220 pounds, Iverson is not afraid to muck it up in front of the net, and is somebody who won’t shy away from physicality. He had 26 goals and 44 assists for 70 points this season in 55 games.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Regular Season Record: 45-21-3-3
Regular Season Home Record: 22-10-1-3
Last Game: A 2-1 shootout loss at home last Saturday against Kamloops
Regular Season Goals For/Goals Against: 253 GF/201 GA
Regular Season Power Play: 17.6% (17th in WHL)
Regular Season Penalty Kill: 83.1% (4th in WHL)
Regular Season Leading Scorers: Jansen Harkins (64GP – 21G – 51A – 72PTS), Nikita Popugaev (71GP – 29G – 40A – 69PTS), Jesse Gabrielle (61GP – 35G – 29A – 64PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Colby McAuley: The 20-year-old led all Cougars with four goals this season against Portland and he added two assists to his credit as well. The Sherwood Park, AB native finished with 26 goals and 29 assists for 55 points and plays with the type of energy and passion that should translate very well into a series like this.
Radovan Bondra: In just three games against the Winterhawks this season, Radovan Bondra struck for two goals and four assists for six points. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect was named the Cougars Player of the Month for March and finished the season with 32 goals and 31 assists for 63 points in 62 games.
WHO’S ON D:
Brendan Guhle: The Buffalo Sabres prospect had two goals and three assists for five points in four games against Portland and led all Cougars in scoring with 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points. Guhle will be expected to make a big impact at both ends of the ice tonight and his leadership and poise will be big for the Cougars as they kick off their series tonight.
Sam Ruopp: The Cougars captain will likely get a bulk of the work against the likes of Cody Glass, Skyler McKenzie and Cody Glass. The biggest key for Ruopp will be to maintain his composure and lead the charge with physicality and finesse. Playoff hockey is right up his alley and the Cougars captain will certainly be a factor in this series with his physicality.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: The 20-year-old Winnipeg, MB product finished the season with an overall record of 31-16-2-3. His goals-against-average was 2.48 and his save percentage finished at .916 with one shutout. Edmonds went 1-1 against the Winterhawks in two starts this season.
Composure: The crowd will be loud. The Winterhawks will be physical, and there will be added pressure and expectations given the type of regular season the Cougars had. But with all of that said, the biggest key for the Cougars tonight is to remain calm, focused and not change what has made them so successful this season. For the Cougars it’s about the little things: Finish checks, stay disciplined and keep shift lengths reasonable. If the Cougars play to their strengths and use their depth to their advantage they are going to give themselves the best chance possible for success.