Cougars-Oil Kings Preview
A very road heavy schedule for the Prince George Cougars will be put on hold for at least the next two nights as tonight and tomorrow the Prince George Cougars return to the friendly confines of the CN Centre for back-to-back matchups with the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Cougars have earned points in six of their last nine games, five of which were victories. Have they hit their stride yet? No. But despite the wavy ride that has been their 2015-16 season, there is plenty of room for optimism and tonight the Cougars will look to earn their fourth straight home ice victory when they welcome the Edmonton Oil Kings.
EDMONTON OIL KINGS
Steve Hamilton’s Edmonton Oil Kings are coming to town with a 7-9-3-0 record. Their 17 points have them ranked fourth in the Central Division and ninth in the 12 team Eastern Conference standings. Coming into tonight the Oil Kings have won three straight and are 4-4-2-0 in their past 10 games altogether. Last season the Oil Kings were 3-1 against the Cougars and 1-1 against them in Prince George. Last weekend Edmonton took both games of a home-and-home series with the Calgary Hitmen.
Who’s Up Front:
Offensively the Oil Kings have been led by 19-year-old forward Lane Bauer. The third year forward has already scored nine times and leads all Oil Kings in points with 19 in 17 games. Last season Bauer had an impressive 25 goals and 30 assists for 55 points total, and this season he’s quietly established himself as one of the more underrated offensive talents in the WHL. Bauer is also a threat on the power play as he’s got three goals for the season when up a man.
Who’s on D:
19-year-old Arizona Coyotes prospect Dyson Mayo can do it all. He can skate, he can handle himself physically, and he can definitely score. Mayo leads all Oil Kings defencemen with 11 points this season (all assists) and over the course of a 196 game regular season career Mayo has scored 22 goals while adding 80 assists and 159 penalty minutes. He’s also played a staggering 45 career playoff games for Edmonton. He’s a tremendous talent and will likely see a ton of ice time in all situations for his team. Last season Mayo had six points in four games against Prince George.
Who’s in Goal:
18-year-old Patrick Dea is really starting to find his stride between the pipes for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Dea has won his last three starts and over the course of four November starts has posted 3-1 record with a 1.76 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage. For the season Dea is 5-7-2-0. Last season Dea went 1-0 against the Cougars in his only start against them.
19-year-old Dallas Stars prospect Brett Pollock is off to another strong start in this his fourth full WHL campaign. Pollock, who’s coming off a 32 goal season has recorded seven goals and 18 points in 19 games played so far this season. The 6’3”, 197 pound forward is very difficult to play against due to his strength, his shot and his offensive instincts. He’s got goals in three straight games heading into tonight’s game.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars are coming into tonight’s game with an 8-7-1-0 record. Their 17 points have them ranked third in the B.C. Division and fifth overall in the Western Conference standings. Though they’ve lost two straight, the Cougars have points in six of their last nine games and have gone 5-4-1-0 in their past 10 games altogether. Last season the Cougars went 1-0-1-0 against the Oil Kings in two games at home and it was actually the home double-header in early February last season that helped turn the tide for the Cougars in their push towards the post season. After a wretched January the Cougars finished the season 11-5-1-2 starting with them grabbing three of four possible points against Edmonton at home.
Who’s Up Front:
The Prince George Cougars received a major boost offensively last Saturday with the return of Jansen Harkins to their lineup. No he didn’t score, and no the Cougars didn’t win, but Harkins had his share of chances and did all he could to help his team win. Harkins followed up his return to the Cougars lineup with a terrific showing earlier this week at the CHL Canada Russia Series. In two games for Team WHL, Harkins scored twice, one in each game en route to two WHL victories. Here’s hoping it can be a major confidence boost for Harkins who has managed just goal in 13 games so far this season for Prince George.
Who’s on D:
Defensively tonight the Prince George Cougars will be bolstered by the return of 18-year-old Canucks draft pick Tate Olson. The 18-year-old from Saskatoon has eight points in 10 games this season and is tops on the team in scoring for defencemen. Olson’s presence will be especially important for the Cougars power play which has struggled lately going just two for their past 34. Hopefully the return of Olson can have a positive effect on the Cougars offensively because when he’s ‘right’ he’s a very talented and reliable player for this Cougars team.
Who’s in Goal:
The Prince George Cougars goaltending tandem of Ty Edmonds and Nick McBride are going to have a busy weekend. For Ty Edmonds, he’s looking to continue his hot start to the season and maintain his status as the team’s number one goaltender. Edmonds is 5-4-1-0 with a 2.10 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage which has him ranked atop the WHL in that category. Meanwhile Mark Holick has already said that Nick McBride will play at some point this weekend given that the Cougars are set to play three games in three nights. Goaltending is going to be a major key for the Cougars in all three games, and hopefully tonight the Cougars can get off on the right foot in that area, and given how well Ty Edmonds has played, there’s little reason to doubt that he will do just that.
The Prince George Cougars power play needs to get better. They are just two for their past 34 power play opportunities and given how much offensive fire power this team possesses, it’s very important for them to find a way to get this thing clicking more consistently. The re-addition of Tate Olson sure helps that cause, but collectively the Prince George Cougars NEED to take advantage of their power play chances, especially against an Edmonton team that can play a pretty solid and structured game defensively.