Cougars Look to Square WHL Series
Tonight it’s all about the ‘response’ for the Prince George Cougars who find themselves down 1-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Portland Winterhawks. Game 1 on Friday went the way of the visitors by a 4-2 score and all of a sudden the importance of Game 2 has been enhanced as the Cougars look to get back on even terms. Tonight’s game starts at 5 PM at the CN Centre and should feature another charged up crowd in Prince George.
Last Game: A 4-2 win in Game 1 on Friday night
Goals For/Goals Against: 4 GF/2 GA
Power Play: 40% (2/5)
Penalty Kill: 66% (2/3)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Keegan Iverson: The Winterhawks captain was a force in game one and used his size, skill and experience to his advantage. He had the game winning goal which came early in the second period, and also played a big part in the Winterhawks’ second goal which came late in the first. Iverson is the elder statesmen on this Winterhawk roster and has played in countless big games over the years. His leadership and experience showed big-time in Game 1.
Skyler McKenzie: The Winterhawks regular season goal scoring leader picked up his first of the series late in the first period on Friday. Not only was McKenzie effective on the offensive side of the puck, but defensively he was very responsible alongside Keegan Iverson and Cody Glass. Keeping th 18-year-old in check will be a big key tonight for PG.
WHO’S ON D:
Caleb Jones: The Edmonton Oilers draft pick played a TON on Friday and saw a lot of ice against the trio of Jansen Harkins, Colby McAuley and Radovan Bondra. Jones also picked up an assist and was a calming influence on the back-end for Portland. The Cougars will undoubtedly get another steady diet of Jones in tonight’s game.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Cole Kehler: The inexperience of Cole Kehler was not a factor in Game 1 as the 19-year-old made 23 saves to pick up his first ever playoff victory in his first ever WHL start. Kehler was brilliant, especially early and was named the game’s first star for his efforts. Tonight Kehler will look to do more of the same as he and the Winterhawks take aim at a 2-0 series lead.
Special Teams: The Winterhawks power play went two-for-five and the penalty kill came up clutch in the final minutes of the third en route to their victory on Friday. It will be very important for the Cougars to minimize their chances on the man advantage tonight as there are just so many confident offensive weapons who thrive on the man advantage.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Last Game: A 4-2 loss in Game 1 Friday against Portland
Goals For/Goals Against: 2 GF/4 GA
Power Play: 33% (1/3)
Penalty Kill: 60% (3/5)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Colby McAuley: The Cougars 20-year-old forward led the Cougars attack with two assists in Game 1. He also threw a thunderous body check on Brendan De Jong in the first period that sent the crowd into a frenzy. McAuley has had a phenomenal final season in the WHL, and his passion and intensity were a huge factor for the Cougars in Game 1. He’ll look to repeat those efforts tonight.
Jansen Harkins: The Cougars all-time leading scorer struck early in the third to get the Cats back within striking distance, and tonight the Winnipeg Jets prospect will look for more of the same. He’s a very dynamic, opportunistic type of player, and in a game of this importance he’ll be looked upon to provide leadership and offense.
WHO’S ON D:
Sam Ruopp: The Cougars captain played his usual strong, physical type of game on Friday, and five-on-five did a great job at defending his own zone. Ruopp is a physical force and will likely be tasked with keeping the likes of McKenzie, Iverson and Cody Glass at bay. A big game from the three-year captain would be a huge boost tonight for the Cougars at home.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: The 20-year-old made 31 saves on 35 shots faced in Game 1 and was especially brilliant in the final period and was able to keep the Cougars within one goal. Over the 200-plus games of his WHL career, Edmonds has always been able to rise to the occasion when it’s mattered most, and tonight he’ll look to help turn the tide of the series back into the Cougars favor.
Urgency: This is not a ‘must-win’ game by any stretch but the Cougars would really do themselves a huge favor mentally by heading to Portland with the series tied 1-1. On Friday the Cougars managed only nine shots combined in periods two and three, and for a team with so much offense and depth that total was just not good enough. Tonight they’ll need to do everything in their power to challenge Cole Kehler and make his job in goal as tough as possible.