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Preview: Cougars at Rockets (GM #26)

The Prince George Cougars wrap up their mini two-game road in Kelowna against the Rockets at Prospera Place Wednesday night. The Cougars are coming off a 4-3 loss in Kamloops on Saturday and are in the midst of a three-game winless slump. The Rockets shutout the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-0 at home Saturday, as they’ve posted back-to-back wins and have won seven of their last 10.

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Prince George dropped their first game in Kamloops this season on the weekend, after winning the previous two encounters against the Blazers at the Sandman Centre. After going down 2-0 in the first 10-minutes of the game, the Cougars rallied in the second, scoring twice in two-minutes to tie it 2-2 through two periods. Blazers’ Quinn Benjafield scored late to give Kamloops a 3-2 with just over six-minutes left, before an empty-net goal in the last half minute. Chance Adrian scored his first WHL with seven-seconds left to make things interesting but in the end, the Cougars ran out of time. FULL GAM RECAP. 

Kelowna blanked the Medicine Hat Tigers last Saturday, behind the 38-save shutout by 16-year-old debutante Roman Basran. The call up from the Okanagan Rockets became the first 16-year-old ever to earn a shutout in his first career start. He also became the first 16-year-old to start for the Rockets since 2001. Kelowna earned a 3-2 win against Vancouver on the road one night earlier. What’s more impressive is they’ve won back-to-back games without forwards Kole Lind, Nolan Foote and Erik Gardiner. All three have been dealing with upper-body injuries and according to the WHL Weekly Report, Gardiner is listed as week-t0-week but Lind and Foote are listed as day-to-day. Lind is the Rockets top scorer with 32 points and both Nolan Foote and Gardiner have been top-six forwards this season.

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Wednesday night, is the fourth of eight meetings between these two BC Division foes and second match up at Prospera Place. One month ago, on October 28th, the Rockets scored a 4-2 win at home over the Cougars, in another tightly contested game between the two teams. Taking out the Rockets empty-net goal on October 28th, each of the first three games in the season series has been decided by one goal. Jared Bethune, Dennis Cholowski, Kody McDonald and Brogan O’Brien each have four points against the Rockets this season. Cholowski, Jackson Leppard, Josh Maser and Vladislav Mikhalchuk all have two goals against Kelowna. Taylor Gauthier and Tavin Grant have each saw action in the Cougars net against the Rockets, with Grant losing twice in overtime and Gauthier once in regulation.

Dillon Dube leads the Rockets in scoring against Prince George with two goals and eight points, followed by Carsen Twarynski (2-4-6) and Kole Lind (3-2-5); Lind’s three goals are the most against Prince George. Rookie James Porter is 2-0-0 against the Cougars and has a .932 save percentage in those two starts.

Last year the two teams split the eight-game season series, as each team picked up four wins. It was tale of two halves to the season series, as the Cougars won the first four games over Kelowna, outscoring them 13-4. However, Kelowna won the last four games against the Cougars outscoring them 18-6; only two of the eight games were decided by one goal. Of those returning Cougars, Bethune had the most goals and points against Kelowna, scoring four times and finishing with eight points in as many games. Josh Curtis was second with four points, all assists. The Cougars were 2-2-0-0 at Prospera Place last season. Kelowna has won three straight home games against the Cougars dating back to last season. The Cougars last won in Kelowna on November 15th, 2016.

Taylor Gauthier is your projected starter for the Cougars tonight and was the goalie of record in the Cougars last trip to Kelowna just over a month ago. That night, Gauthier stopped 26 of 29 shots in that setback.

James Porter was the winning goaltender for the Rockets, as he stopped 27 of 29 shots. Given the fact Porter has won both his starts against the Cougars and has great numbers against Prince George, you’d think he would get the call tonight. However, with Roman Basran’s performance Saturday, Head Coach Jason Smith has a tough decision on his hands. A good problem to have nonetheless.

Head-to-Head Scoring

Cougars

Cholowski 2-2-4
Bethune 1-3-4
McDonald 1-3-4
O’Brien 1-3-4
Leppard 2-1-3
Rockets
Dube 2-6-8
Twarynski 2-4-6
Lind 3-2-5
Gardiner 2-3-5
N. Foote 1-2-3
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