Game Preview: GM #18 Cougars at Vancouver Giants
COUGARS IN LANGLEY, LOOKING TO EXTEND WIN STREAK TO THREE
The Prince George Cougars (7-7-1-2) are in Langley to face the Vancouver Giants (12-3-2-0) in a Remembrance Day long weekend double-header. The Cougars are coming off a weekend sweep over the Seattle Thunderbirds a week ago, winning 4-1 and 2-0 back at the CN Centre. The Giants have won their last two games, including a 2-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers last Saturday; both teams are well rested heading into this weekend’s clash. They play again tomorrow at 2 pm.
COUGARS PRE-SCOUT: The Cougars are finally healthy (please, someone touch woods). The Cougars get their top two centres back in Ethan Browne and Ilijah Colina, along with fellow forward Mike MacLean. Browne missed both games last weekend with a lower-body injury. Colina has been out since getting hurt October 24th against Tri-City and MacLean missed last Saturday’s game against Seattle after being hurt in the first period of Friday’s game. Despite having a short-handed line up last weekend, the Cougars rattled off two impressive wins over a good Seattle side. Defensively you can’t ask for much more, with the Cougars surrendering one goal in 120-minutes. That goal coming in garbage time on Friday. The Cougars are 3-2-1-0 on the road this season, winning two of their last three on the road and they’ve picked up points in three-straight road games. Tonight, and tomorrow are the third and fourth meetings between the Cougars and Vancouver Giants. Vancouver swept the Cougars back on October 4thand 5th, winning 3-0 and 3-2. This weekend is the first two of four games in Langley for the Cougars. They’re back at the Langley Events Centre on December 16thand February 10th. Joel Lakusta has two goals in two games against the Giants. The Cougars are 2-4-1-1 against the B.C. Division. The Cougars were 4-3-1-0 against the Giants last season. The Cougars are 9-2-1-0 in their last 12 road games against the Giants. Josh Maser has goals in four of his last five games and points (3-4-7) in six of the last seven games going back to October 6th. Vladislav Mikhalchuk has seven-points (2-5-7) in his last four games. Cole Moberg has eight-points (3-5-8) in his last five games. Taylor Gauthier is coming off his first career shutout, stopping 37-shots against the Seattle Thunderbirds on November 3rd.
GIANTS PRE-SCOUT: The Giants sit atop of the B.C. Division with 26-points in in 17-games, six-points up on the second place Victoria Royals. Just last week, the Giants made big splash on Halloween day, trading leading scorer James Malm and a conditional Bantam Draft pick in 2020 to the Calgary Hitmen for 2000-born forward Tristen Nielsen. More on that deal HERE. Small sample size but the Giants haven’t missed a beat, as they won their next game, 2-1 over the Blazers last Saturday. With Malm traded, Milos Roman is the Giants’ top point getter, with 14-points (8-6-14) in 17-games. After a light schedule at the end of October, the Giants’ schedule ramps up with five games over the next seven-days. The Giants boast a lot of depth, with four players who have 13 or more points. Their strength is certainly in goal, as they have two of the top goaltenders in the WHL in David Tendeck and Trent Miner. Miner, the 17-year-old from Brandon, Manitoba leads the league in goals-against average (1.41) and save percentage (.953) among goalies who’ve played five or more games. Tendeck, the number one…’A’ shutout the Cougars on October 5th. Tendeck, drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, has solid numbers too, owning a 2.33 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.The Giants are an impressive 7-0-1-0 against the B.C. Division this season. They’re 7-2-1-0 at home.
Goals: (5) Josh Curtis
Assists: (10) Vladislav Mikhalchuk
Points: (13) Vladislav Mikhalchuk
PPG: (2) Joel Lakusta, Jackson Leppard, Cole Moberg
SHG: (1) Tyson Upper
PIMS: (40) Austin Crossley
Goals: (8) Milos Roman
Assists: (10) Davis Koch, Brayden Watts
Points: (14) Milos Roman
PPG: (4) Milos Roman
PIMS: (26) Bowen Byram, Kaleb Bulych
- START: Both teams have had plenty of rest, not playing in seven-days. The Cougars, being the road team, will want to establish their game early on. Especially against the Giants, who are a very good home team and 8-0-0-0 when they score first. The Cougars are 4-2-1-2 when they open up the scoring. Prince George doesn’t want to give the home side early momentum that they can feed off of. When the Giants trail early, they’re 4-3-2-0. Still a good record but a stark contrast compared to when they score first. The Cougars need to establish momentum early on, take the crowd out of it and get the Giants to chase the game. That not necessarily means scoring right away but putting together a solid first five, 10-minutes to set themselves up for the rest of the game.
- REINFORCEMENTS: The Cougars are getting three key pieces back in Browne, Colina and MacLean. That will certainly help their depth upfront but they can’t fall into a false sense of security. Just because those three are back doesn’t mean others can dial it back. The Cougars rallied around those injuries last week and put in two impressive efforts against Seattle. They’ll need more of the same this weekend against a Giants team that boasts a lot of depth. Certain players stepped up when others were injured, they’ll need that type of effort again this weekend.
- PHYSICAL PRESENCE: The Cougars are at their best when they’re aggressive, playing hard-nosed north, south hockey. We saw that against Seattle, when that fore-check was forcing turnovers in the opposition’s end. They’ll need to bring that against a Giants team, that under Head Coach Michael Dyck, play an up-tempo puck possession game. The Cougars need to be in the face of the Giants, disrupting that quick transition game. It’s a fine line, as they can’t get caught taking penalties or this game can get away from them quickly.