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Preview: Cougars Look for Split versus Blazers

Tonight… The Prince George Cougars look for the weekend split against the Kamloops Blazers tonight at the CN Centre. The Cougars are in the midst of a three-game home stand that wraps up Monday afternoon against the Red Deer Rebels. Prince George is looking to avenge last night’s 3-2 loss to Kamloops and snap a two-game losing streak in the process. Ilijah Colina and Kjell Kjemhus scored last night in the first period for the Cougars, and Taylor Gauthier made 30-saves in the setback. Special teams were a bit of sore spot, as the Cougars went 0-5 on the power-play, and the Blazers scored the game-winner, on the man-advantage, with 40-seconds left in regulation.

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What’s on Tap… The Cougars host the Red Deer Rebels in a matinee game on Monday afternoon as part Family Day celebrations in BC. The Cougars beat the Rebels 4-1 back on October 21st as part of their three-game Central Division road trip. Then it’s another road trip, as the Cougars embark on a four-game swing through Kamloops, Kelowna, Spokane and Tri-City starting next Saturday against the Blazers. The Cougars won’t return home until February 27th & 28th when they face the Rockets at the CN Centre.

Season Series… Tonight, is the seventh of 10 meetings between the Cougars and Blazers. The Cougars have won two of six thus far against Kamloops, with both wins coming on the road. The Blazers have won all three games in Prince George this season and four-straight at the CN Centre if you go back to last season. The Cougars picked up 6-2 and 5-4 wins in Kamloops On October 4th and November 15th. The BC Division rivals meet again next Saturday night, as the Cougars travel down to Kamloops and the Sandman Centre. There’s a six-way tie for the Cougars scoring lead against the Blazers, as Chance Adrian, Aaron Boyd, Jared Bethune, Josh Curtis, Cole Moberg and Ryan Schoettler each have three points against Kamloops. Joe Gatenby has eight points, all assists, against the Cats this season and Jermaine Loewen (3-4-7) and Nick Chyzowski (2-5-7) each have seven points.

Cougars Tracks… Prince George got a rude welcoming home courtesy of the Blazers, losing Friday on a last-minute power-play goal. Speaking of the power-play, that was the topic of conversation after the game with Head Coach Richard Matvichuk in the post-game show. The center of attention was the five-minute power-play the Cougars had in the third period, in a 2-2 game but managed to generate just one shot. In the end, the Cougars went 0-5 on the power-play, whereas the Blazers went 1-3.

Five-on-five last night, the Cougars had to be pretty happy with their effort, as they limited the Blazers to two even-strength goals. The Cougars did a good job of steering the Blazers to the outside and not allowing many quality scoring chances. Both teams in fact, were pretty good in their own end, as shooting lanes were closed down quickly, and there was plenty of blocked shots.

The biggest thing for the Cougars to try and fix with their power-play is their urgency with the puck. One too many times, the coaching staff thought they overpassed, passing up good shooting opportunities. Just look at the game-winner by Kamloops, it was a rebound after a shot from the left-wing circle. If the Cougars are going to get the power-play on track, they will need to get more rubber on net.

A bright spot last night was Kjell Kjemhus scoring his first WHL goal in the first period, and his line of Liam Ryan and Brendan Boyle were noticeable. They received high praise from Head Coach Richard Matvichuk, and Ryan had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but just missed. Youthful enthusiasm will be needed once again tonight.

Scouting Report… The Blazers are looking for their second weekend sweep in Prince George this season, as they took both games at the CN Centre back on October 13th and 14th. Kamloops snapped a two-games winless skid last night with that 3-2 win and did gain a point on Seattle and Spokane in the playoff race; they both lost in overtime. Coming into tonight’s game, the Blazers are eight points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

20-year-old defenceman Joe Gatenby will be playing in his 300th career regular season game tonight. Gatenby was the second star last night, picking up two assists and was likely the Blazers leader in ice time. The Kelowna, BC, product has a goal and four points in his last three games. Forward Jermaine Loewen has three goals and five points in his last three games, and Nick Chyzowski has two goals and five points in four games.

After the Cougars scored on their first two shots, Kamloops goaltender Dylan Ferguson was sharp the rest of the way, stopping the final 26-shots he faced and now is 4-1 against the Cougars with a .901 save percentage. With the Blazers desperate for points, as they try and stay in the playoff race, you would expect Dylan Ferguson gets the call again this evening.

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