Preview: Cougars back home versus division rival Kelowna
Kelowna Rockets (2-1-0-1) at Prince George Cougars (2-3-0-0)
CN Centre 7 pm
After winning two of three on their road trip through Seattle, Portland and Kamloops, the Prince George Cougars return home, kicking-off a five-game home stand against their BC Division rival, the Kelowna Rockets. After opening the road trip with a loss in Seattle, the Cougars rebounded nicely, shutting out the Portland Winterhawks 3-0 on October 1st, and they thumped the Kamloops Blazers 6-2 Wednesday night. Prince George is still in search of their first win at home, as they dropped both games to the Spokane Chiefs on opening weekend two weeks ago. Last year the Cougars won 22 of their 36 home games, sporting a 22-10-1-3 record at the CN Centre. On this five-game home stand, the Cougars will face the Rockets (2), Blazers (2) and Calgary Hitmen.
After starting out of the gate 2-0, the Rockets have dropped back-to-back games, losing 4-3 in a shootout to Everett and 8-3 to Victoria on Wednesday. After this weekend, the Rockets go back home to face the Calgary Hitmen next Friday, before making a trip down to Portland for two games next Saturday and Sunday.
Tonight, is the first of eight between these two divisional foes. Last year they 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, Jared 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. Prince George split their four games against Kelowna last season.
These two teams finished one, two in the BC Division standings last season, with the Cougars bettering the Rockets by just one point. The Cougars had 96 points and a 45-21-3-3 record, and the Rockets had 95 points and a mark of 45-22-3-0.
Tavin Grant is the projected starter for the Cougars, as the goaltender has won back-to-back starts and has stopped 64 of the last 66 shots he faced. Grant shutout Portland last Sunday and stopped 17 of 19 against Kamloops on Wednesday. Brodan Salmond started for the Rockets on Wednesday against Victoria but was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 15 shots. Salmond will likely start one, if not both of the games this weekend.
The Cougars made one roster move ahead of their weekend series against Kelowna, as they re-assigned defenseman Peter Kope to the Camrose Kodiaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Kope, a fifth round WHL Bantam Draft pick in 2014, had seven penalty-minutes in three pre-season games for the Cougars.
Currently the Prince George Cougars roster sits at 26 players: 15 forwards, 8 defencemen and three goaltenders. Among those 26 players, four are in their 20-year-old season, seven are in their 19-year-old season, five are in their 18-year-old season, nine are in their 17-year-old season and one is in their 16-year-old season. 14 of the 26 players on the roster were drafted by the Cougars in the WHL Bantam Draft, five players were acquired via trade, and eight were players added via the Cougars 50-man Protected List as free-agents.