Cougars Play Off Action Starts Tonight
The wait is over. Tonight at the ShoWare Center, the Prince George Cougars and Seattle Thunderbirds are going to start their first round Western Conference playoff series, and to say that there is excitement in the air would be an understatement. The Cougars and T-Birds have met three previous times in the WHL playoffs, and while their rivalry doesn’t exactly rival that of a Seattle-Everett or a Prince George-Kamloops, the playoffs are excellent for creating and establishing new rivalries. The T-Birds are red hot heading into the playoffs while the Cougars are thrilled to have pushed the reset button. This has all of the makings of a potential classic first round series.
Head Coach: Steve Konowalchuk
- Regular Season Record: 45-23-4-0 (1st in the US Division)
- Regular Season Home Record: 29-5-2-0 (1-1 Against Prince George)
- Streak: 13-0-1-0 (2W)
- Last 10: 9-0-1-0
- 2015-16 Record Against Prince George: 2-2
WHO’S UP FRONT:
New York Islanders top prospect MATHEW BARZAL led all T-Birds in scoring this season with 88 points in 58 games. RYAN GROPP (a NY Rangers draftee) led the charge with 34 goals and finished second on the team in points with 70 points in 66 games. KEEGAN KOLESAR, a Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick is another offensive threat who totaled 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 64 games.
WHO’S ON D:
ETHAN BEAR, a 2015 draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers led all T-Bird blueliners with 23 goals and 65 points. 12 of Bear’s 23 goals came via the power play. T-Birds captain JERRET SMITH led all Seattle players with four goals and six points in four games against Prince George this season. Fellow 20-year-old d-man JARED HAUF is a big and rugged physical d-man who will primarily be used in a shutdown capacity.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Since joining Seattle in a trade at the deadline from Swift Current, LANDON BOW has put together an outstanding record of 16-6. His goals-against-average is 1.76 and his save percentage sits at .938. Oh yeah, he posted five of his seven shutouts in a Seattle uniform, one of which came in Prince George back on January 13th at CN Centre. The 20-year-old BOW will almost certainly start each game for Seattle in this series.
Seattle’s POWER PLAY was ranked third in the entire WHL with a success rate of 23.7 percent. Their PENALTY KILL is also dynamite as it finished atop the league standings with a success rate of 85.3 percent. Goaltending and special teams are often huge factors when it comes to the outcome of a playoff series, and Seattle has to feel good about where their special teams are at heading into Round 1 against Prince George.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Head Coach: Mark Holick
- 2015-16 Regular Season Record: 36-31-3-2 (Fourth in the B.C. Division)
- 2015-16 Regular Season Road Record: 15-18-2-1 (1-1 in Seattle)
- Streak: 0-4-0-1
- Last 10: 3-6-0-1
- 2015-16 Record Against Seattle: 2-2
WHO’S UP FRONT:
CHASE WITALA led all Cougars in points with 79 of them in 71 games. JESSE GABRIELLE also posted 40 goals and finished the season with 75 points. GABRIELLE and WITALA became the first Prince George Cougars duo to each record 40 goals in the same season. GABRIELLE and KODY McDONALD each scored three goals against Seattle during the regular season.
WHO’S ON D:
TATE OLSON, a Vancouver Canucks prospect led all Cougars with a goal and four assists for five points against Seattle during the regular season. Cougars captain SAM RUOPP is going to get a ton of ice-time, likely against the likes of Matt Barzal and Ryan Gropp. RUOPP’S +23 rating gives him the highest plus-minus total since Derek Halldorson’s +28 rating that he recorded during the 2001-02 season.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
TY EDMONDS will get the call in Game 1 for the Cougars. This season the pride of Winnipeg, MB finished with a 21-17-2-1 record with four shutouts, a 2.75 goals-against-average and a .913 save percentage. This season EDMONDS was 2-2 against Seattle with a 2.78 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.
The Prince George Cougars PHYSICALITY is going to serve them well this series. They are not afraid to muck it up, and their style is perfectly suited for the road and for a hostile building like the ShoWare Center. The big key for the Cougars though on top of PHYSICALITY will be DISCIPLINE and making sure that the Thunderbirds deadly power play isn’t given ample opportunity to flex it’s muscle. If the Cougars can QUIET THE CROWD, perhaps SCORE FIRST and remain DISCIPLINED they are going to give themselves every possible chance to take a 1-0 series lead tonight in Seattle.