Cougars Set to Battle Royals in Season Opener
It’s go time for the Prince George Cougars. The 2016-17 season officially gets underway tonight in Victoria and the Cougars couldn’t be more excited to get going. It won’t be an easy start for the Cougars in their 23rd season of existence, as tonight they’re in hostile territory looking to take down the defending B.C. Division and WHL regular season champs, the Victoria Royals.
2015-16 Record: 50-16-3-3 (First in B.C. Division and Western Hockey League)
2015-16 Record VS. PG: 5-2-0-1
2016-17 Preseason Record: 5-1
Head Coach: Dave Lowry
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Dante Hannoun: The 18-year-old led the Royals in preseason scoring with four goals and six points in five games. Last season Hannoun struck for 26 goals and 32 assists and was a +26 in 71 games.
Ethan Price: Known primarily as an energy guy, Price can definitely be an offensive factor when called upon. The 19-year-old had three goals in the preseason and had 11 last season. With three forwards still remaining at NHL camps, Price is going to be asked to fill the void offensively.
WHO’S ON D:
Ralph Jarratt: Now in his 18-year-old season, Ralph Jarratt is hard to miss out there. He’s 6’2”, 216 pounds and has just returned from the New Jersey Devils rookie camp. He’ll likely get a ton of minutes in key situations tonight, and looks poised to be a definitely ‘go too guy’ for Dave Lowry and company this season.
Ryan Gagnon: The 20-year-old Quesnel product (and former Cariboo Cougar) had a great season last year scoring five goals, 20 assists and was a staggering +46. He’s the leader on the back-end and always seems to bring a little bit of extra when it comes to the Prince George Cougars.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Griffen Outhouse: Is ready for prime time and the number one job in Victoria. Last season as a rookie, Outhouse was money going 18-3-3-1 with a 1.82 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage. He was 2-2 against the Cougars last season with a 2.34 goals-against-average and a .939 save percentage.
Depth: With four key players still away at NHL camps (Soy, Phillips, Walker and Reddekopp) the Royals are going to need players to rise up and contribute in situations that they may not be used too. You don’t win 50 games in a season though relying solely on your top guys, and the Royals will definitely have some weapons that are going to make life tough on the Cougars.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
2015-16 Record: 36-31-3-2
2015-16 Record VS. Victoria: 3-5 (1-3 on the road)
2016-17 Preseason Record: 3-3
Head Coach: Richard Matvichuk
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Brad Morrison: Has joined the team in Victoria after his second NHL training camp with the New York Rangers. He led all Cougars last season with four goals and seven points against the Royals. Even in previous seasons, Morrison has been a thorn in the Royals side. Look for him to be a big key for the Cougars.
Kody McDonald: Has also joined the team in Victoria after attending rookie camp with the New York Islanders. To the surprise of many, Kody McDonald was not drafted in 2016. He’ll look to prove a lot of people wrong with a big season in 2016-17, and he appears to be ready for that challenge. He had 15 goals last season.
WHO’S ON D:
Max Martin: Led all Cougar blueliners in preseason scoring with five assists in four games. He only played 10 games a season ago thanks to a shoulder injury, but he’s been lights out during the preseason and during training camp an expects to be a big time contributor to the Cougars defensive success in 2016-17.
Shane Collins: The 19-year-old is one of the elder statesmen on the Cougars blueline given the fact that Tate Olson, Sam Ruopp and Josh Anderson are all not here. He’ll log big minutes in all situations tonight for PG.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: The 20-year-old is looking to become the Cougars all-time winningest goaltender. He needs 27 more to do so, which is not impossible given the type of team the Cougars expect to have this season. He’s no stranger to Victoria having faced them a ton over the years.
Nick McBride: The 19-year-old had a terrific preseason. He finished third in the WHL in both goals-against-average (1.31) and save percentage (.963). He’s healthy, inspired and ready to challenge for playing time at every turn.
Spoil the party: Tonight the Cougars are the ones playing with no pressure. They are the ones on the road. They don’t have anybody to impressive except themselves. A big key for them tonight will be to take the crowd out of the game early and set the tone in all three zones.