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Game Preview: GM #23 Cougars vs. Regina Pats

COUGARS LOOK TO BOUNCE BACK AGAINST PATS, AS HOME STAND WINDS DOWN

The Prince George Cougars (9-10-1-2) continue their home stand, as they host the Regina Pats (8-16-0-0) at the CN Centre. The Cougars are playing their fourth game of a five-game home stand and so far have a 1-2-0-0 record through three games. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back losses to the Kamloops Blazers last weekend, losing 5-1 Saturday and 7-3 on Sunday. the Pats are playing their final game of a six-game road trip through B.C. The Pats are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday. Tonight, is the first and only meeting between the two teams this year. Last season, the Pats beat the Cougars 4-1 in Regina on January 31st.

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COUGARS PRE-SCOUT: The Cougars were licking their wounds after two tough losses to the Kamloops Blazers last weekend but now their focus has shifted to regrouping, bouncing back. The 7-3 loss on Sunday was highlighted by a season-high seven goals against and Saturday’s 5-1 loss marked a season-low in shots (14) for the Cougars. Time to turn the page. If they win tonight and find a way to take two points out of tomorrow’s game against Saskatoon, then they’re looking at a 3-2-0-0 record on the five-game home stand; pretty solid. The Cougars come into this weekend sitting third in the B.C. Division with 21-points, tied with the Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets face the Victoria Royals at home tonight. Only three points separate third from fifth in the division, as the Blazers sit fifth with 18 points. Diving into the home record, the Cougars are 5-7-0-1 at the CN Centre and are 3-2-0-0 in their last five home games, but have been outscored  16-14 in those five games. The 12 goals against this past weekend skew that number. Vladislav Mikhalchuk leads the Cougars in scoring with 16 points (4-12-16) in 22 games, followed by Cole Moberg (7-8-15) who leads the team in goal-scoring. Rounding out the top three is Josh Maser who has 12 points (6-6-12) in 18 games. Isaiah DiLaura leads the Cougars in goals-against average (2.82) and save percentage (.910). Taylor Gauthier leads the team in game played (17), minutes played (985), wins (6) and saves (470). DiLaura and Gauthier each have one shutout. The Cougars are 1-1-0-0 against the East Division, beating Swift Current (4-1) on October 21st and losing to Brandon (5-4) on October 30th. last season, the Cougars were 1-4-0-1 against the East Division. Prince George won their last home game against the Pats, winning 5-2 almost two years ago to the day, November 22nd, 2016. The Cougars lost 4-1 in Regina last season, that on January 31st. In their last 10 games, the Cougars are 4-4-1-1.

PATS PRE-SCOUT: The Pats have been on the road since November 13th, as they’re at the tail-end of a seven-straight road games. After tonight, the Pats hop on the bus to go back home and don’t play again until November 30th, in Brandon. Their next home game in December 1st, against the Prince Albert Raiders. Through five games of this road trip, the Pats are 1-4-0-0, winning in Kamloops on Tuesday (3-2) to break a three-game losing streak. The road trip started with a 5-2 loss in Kootenay, then it was a 10-4 drubbing against the Giants in Langley, before a bounce back win against the Blazers. They were edged by the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 on Wednesday. The Pats are in somewhat of a transition season, as they hosted the 100th Memorial Cup last May, advancing all the way to the Memorial Cup Final, where they lost to Acadie-Bathurst Titan 3-0. It was a core group of two years that carried the Pats to a WHL Final appearance in 2017 against Seattle and a berth in the Memorial Cup final in 2018. That core group is turned over, as the Pats have graduated their top seven scorers from last season and top three defencemen. That’s a combined 147 goals and 475 points moved on to the professional level. Two core pieces last year are leading the charge this season. Colorado Avalanche prospect Nick Henry leads the Pats in scoring with 37 points (12-25-37), followed by Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jake Leschyshyn (16-16-32). The dynamic duo has accounted for 55 percent of the Pats goals (38). Leschyshyn is riding a 12-game point streak (11-10-21) coming into tonight’s game. Overage defenceman Aaron Hyman rounds out the top three with 23 points (5-18-23). Max Paddock, who assumed the number one role at the Memorial Cup, is the workhorse in goal for the Pats. The 18-year-old leads his team in games played (20), minutes played (1036), wins (6), goals-against average (3.82), save percentage (.884) and shutouts (1). The Pats are 4-7-0-0 on the road this season and 1-3-0-0 against the B.C. Division. The Pats are 4-1-0-1 in their last six meetings against the Cougars.

COUGARS LEADERS

Goals: (7) Cole Moberg

Assists: (12) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Points: (16) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Power-Play Goals: (3)  Cole Moberg

Short-handed Goals: (1) Tyson Upper

PIMS: (53) Austin Crossley

 

PATS LEADERS

Goals: (12) Nick Henry

Assists: (25) Nick Henry

Points: (37) Nick Henry

Power-Play Goals: (9) Jake Leschyshyn

Short-Handed Goals: (1) Sergei Alkhimov, Scott Mahovlich, Nick Henry

PIMS: (24) Cole Dubinsky, Nick Henry

 

COUGARS FOCUS

  1. From Puck Drop: The Cougars, in their own words, were flat last weekend. They didn’t have their characteristic jump against the Blazers and it cost them. They were outscored 4-0 in the first periods on the weekend and didn’t do enough to get themselves into the game. The emotion wasn’t there. That needs to change tonight, as they want to set the tone for the weekend with a fast, physical and energetic first 20-minutes. The Pats may be a road weary team, playing their third game in four days and are down three bodies due to injury. The Cougars need to find a way to get off to a good start and build from there. When the Cougars lead after the first period, they’re 5-3-1-1, much better than 1-5-0-0 when trailing after 20-minutes.
  2.  Slow Down the Dynamic Duo: The Pats offence runs through Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn, who make top two-thirds of their top line and account for 55 percent of the teams’ goals. Leschyshyn is riding an astonishing 12 game point streak and Henry has been held pointless just twice in the last 10 games. The Cougars need to test the Pats’ depth and try to contain these two and force the Pats’ to try and find offence from other sources. Their line-mate Austin Pratt sits fourth in team scoring with 22 points but after him there’s a 14-point drop off to the next player, Sergei Alkimhov, who has eight points.
  3. Sandpaper: When you’ve had a tough weekend, the easiest way to try to turn things around is by getting engaged physically. That’s how this roster is constructed, through hard, in-your-face hockey. Prince George looked disinterested, disengaged last weekend. Best remedy to turn things around? Hit someone. Like I said, the Pats are tired, a bit banged up too. They’re itching to get on the bus and go home. The Cougars need to be engaged on the fore-check and make the Pats feel their presence. An aggressive fore-check can force mistakes from the Pats and that’s where the Cougars need to capitalize.
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