GAME DAY: Cougars at Kelowna Rockets
Tonight… Tonight, The Prince George Cougars continue their final road trip of the season, as they make a stop in Kelowna to face the Rockets, in another BC Division battle. The Cougars are so far 0-1-1-0 on the four-game trip, as they were on the wrong side of two, one-goal losses to the Victoria Royals over the weekend. The Cougars are winless in the last five (0-4-1-0) since matching their season-high three-game win streak on March 2nd. Prince George is 10-19-2-3 on the road this season but have lost their last five away from the CN Centre; their last road win was on February 17th in Kamloops. Tonight, is the eighth and final meeting between the Cougars and Rockets.
The Last Game… Victoria came back from a 3-2 third period deficit, to edge the Cougars 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Save on Foods Memorial Centre. Jackson Leppard’s power-play goal late in the second broke a 2-2 tie, but Igor Martynov and Matthew Phillips scored five-minutes apart, as the Royals swept the weekend series. Aaron Boyd and Joel Lakusta also scored in the loss, and Tavin Grant stopped 30 of 34 shots in the Cougars’ crease. Prince George finished with a 3-3-2-0 record against the Royals this season.
Season Series… Tonight, is the eighth and final meeting between these two BC Division rivals and the fourth at Prospera Place. So far, the Cougars a 2-3-2-0 against the Rockets this season but have won back-to-back games against Kelowna. The Cougars took both games of a midweek doubleheader in Prince George on February 27th and 28th, winning 7-6 and 4-1 at the CN Centre. That win on February 27th, snapped a nine-game winless streak against the Rockets, as the Cougars last beat the Rockets in February of last season. Jared Bethune (4-7-11) and former Rockets Bantam Draft pick, Brogan O’Brien (3-8-11), each have 11 points against the Rockets. Jackson Leppard has eight points (3-5-8) and Vladislav Mikhalchuk (4-3-7) and Josh Curtis (1-6-7) have seven points. Kelowna’s Dillon Dube has been a menace against the Cougars, racking up 17 points (5-12-17) in seven games. Carsen Twarynski (7-5-12) has 12 points and Kole Lind rounds out the top three, as he has nine points (3-6-9). The Cougars are 5-9-0-1 in Kelowna over the last five seasons and have lost five-straight at Prospera Place; they lost won in Kelowna on November 15th, 2016.
Draft Watch… Left-winger Jackson Leppard has caught the eye of NHL scouts, as the sophomore forward is ranked 95th among North American Skaters, in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. The North Vancouver product is sixth in team scoring with 15 goals and 35 points in 65 games. Leppard is one of 43 WHL players to make the grade in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, which includes Kelowna forward Kyle Topping (64) and defenceman Libor Zabransky (110).
A Week of Firsts… Last week, three Prince George Cougars rookies scored their first WHL goals. On March 6th, 16-year-old Ethan Browne scored his first WHL goal against Portland. One night later, fellow 16-year-old Connor Bowie scored his first against the Winterhawks, and last Friday, 17-year-old Reid Perepeluk scored his first against Victoria.
Who’s Hot… Defenceman Joel Lakusta has points in seven of his last nine games, picking up 10 points (3-7-10) in those seven games. Forward Brogan O’Brien has three goals and nine points in his last eight games. Since rejoining the team from the Kamloops Storm, Jackson Leppard has averaged a point per-game over his last seven, picking up two goals and five assists. Reid Perepeluk has two points (1-1-2) in two games; he scored his first WHL Friday against the Royals.