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GAME PREVIEW: GM #26 Cougars at Spokane Chiefs

COUGARS LOOK FOR SPLIT IN SPOKANE AGAINST CHIEFS

The Prince George Cougars (10-12-1-2) finish their two-game U.S. Division road trip against the Spokane Chiefs (13-8-1-2) tonight. The Cougars are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Tri-City Americans on Tuesday in Kennewick. The Chiefs haven’t played since beating the Kamloops Blazers 3-1 at home on Saturday. This is the first of four meetings between the Cougars and the Chiefs. The Cougars are back in Spokane on January 9th, before the Chiefs make the trip up to Prince George on February 26th & 27th.

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COUGARS PRE-SCOUT: Tonight, is the Cougars first of four games against the Chiefs, as they look to snap a two game slide. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back losses to the Saskatoon Blades and Tri-City Americans. The Cougars enter Wednesday’s game sitting third in the B.C. Division with 10 wins and 23 points. They’re tied on points with the Kelowna Rockets who host the Vancouver Giants tonight; the Cougars have a game in hand on the Rockets too. The Cougars could jump into second place with a win and a Royals loss in regulation against the visiting Saskatoon Blades. The Cougars could also fall to fourth with a loss and Rockets win over the Giants. The Cougars can finish tonight anywhere from second to fourth in the B.C. Division. It’s that tight. Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored two power-play goals in Tuesday’s loss. Isaiah DiLaura stopped 19 of 23 shots in defeat. The Cougars are 4-4-1-1 in 10 road games this season. The Cougars are in a stretch that sees them play seven of their nine games before the Christmas break on the road. The Cougars have won three of their last five road games. Vladislav Mikhalchuk leads the Cougars in scoring with 19 points (6-13-17), followed by Cole Moberg (7-9-16) and Josh Maser (7-6-13) and Josh Curtis (6-7-13) who are tied with 13 points. Maser and Moberg are tied for the team goal-scoring lead, as each player has seven goals. Taylor Gauthier leads the Cougars in games played (18), minutes played (1045), wins (6) and saves (494). Isaiah DiLaura leads the team in goals-against average (3.07) and save percentage (.902). Both DiLaura and Gauthier each have one shutout. Gauthier will get the start tonight against the Chiefs. The power-play is 4/22 in the last five games and has surrendered two short-handed goals. The penalty-kill is 20/27 in the last five games and has one short-handed goal. The Cougars are 5-7-1-1 after a loss this season. They’ve lost four-straight to the Chiefs. Their last win came on March 11th, 2017.

CHIEFS PRE-SCOUT: The Chiefs come into tonight’s game sitting third in the U.S. Division with 29 points in 24 games, just one point back of the Portland Winterhawks who sit in second. After losing three-straight at the start of the month, the Chiefs have won four of their last five and are coming off back-to-back wins against Everett and Kamloops. Pretty good run without one of their top players in forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Anderson-Dolan only played two games after being sent back by the LA Kings in October, before sustaining an injury. He’s listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury. In his absence, the offence has been driven by a committee of players, led by Riley Woods. The 20-year-old is in his second full season with the Chiefs after being acquired two seasons ago from the Regina Pats. Woods already has 18 goals and 33 points in 24 games. He’s well on his way of surpassing his career-high of 25 goals he set a season go. Right behind Woods in defenceman Ty Smith who has 32 points, which is also the most by any defencemen in the WHL. Rounding out the top three in team scoring is Eli Zummack who has 26 points.  This offence is deep, as the Chiefs have nine players with 15 or more points, four with 20 or more points and six with eight or more goals. Their 89 goals is the third most in the Western Conference, as they’re average nearly four goals per-game (3.70) Two of their defencemen are in the top 15 in the WHL, as Nolan Reid has 19 points (5-14-19) in 24 games. Their blue-line is a bit banged up, as they’re missing two regulars in Matt Leduc and Bobby Russell who are listed as week-to-week. In goal, it has been an interesting story, as two 19-year-olds in Bailey Brkin and Dawson Weatherill have split the majority of games. Brkin, who was acquired early last season from the Kootenay ICE, split time between the Chiefs and Lloydminster Bobcats in the AJHL. He’s stuck with the club out of Training Camp and had the bulk of the starts up until early November, when Weatherill played five-straight; winning three. The two of split the last four games but it’s Brkin who has been the winning goaltender in the last two games. Brkin does lead the team in wins (9), goals-against average (2.69) and save percentage (.917); he also has one shutout.

COUGARS LEADERS

Goals: (7) Josh Maser, Cole Moberg

Assists: (13) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Points: (19) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Power-Play Goals: (3)  Vladislav Mikhalchuk, Cole Moberg

Short-handed Goals: (1) Jackson LeppardTyson Upper

PIMS: (59) Austin Crossley

 

CHIEFS LEADERS

Goals: (18) Riley Woods

Assists: (29) Ty Smith

Points: (33) Riley Woods

Power-Play Goals: (7) Riley Woods

Short-handed Goals: (2) Carter Chorney

PIMS: (38) Luke Toporowski

 

COUGARS FOCUS

  1. BOUNCE BACK: What do the Cougars have for a response? They’re 5-7-1-1 when coming off a loss but what can they do tonight, to try and turn it around. Though they’ve lost two-straight, they’ve arguably played pretty well in their last two games. They’re going up against a good team in a tough building. Tonight is a good challenge both physically and mentally for this young group. Can they play with some bite for a complete 60-minutes and take two points out of Spokane?
  2. SLOWING DOWN THE CHIEFS: The Chiefs love to play a fast game, they have the horses to do it. The Cougars can’t give the Chiefs time and space or it will be a long night. To have success tonight, they have to contest every inch of ice, get the fore-check established and pressure the Chiefs in their end. They can’t let the likes of Smith, Filip Kral and Nolan Reid rush the puck up ice at will. Last night, especially in the first 40-45 minutes, their fore-check was pressuring and creating turnovers. They’ll need more of that.
  3. OFFENSIVE PUNCH: The Cougars have been generating chances of late but the finish hasn’t been there. Look at last night, they outshot the Americans 41-25 and had 19 shots in the second period alone but only managed two power-play goals. The Cougars have had issues trying to put away teams this season. They’ve scored just 60 goals. Can they cash in on those opportunities and get ahead on the Chiefs and make them chase?
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