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Preview: Cougars look for weekend split against Rockets

Kelowna Rockets (3-1-0-1) vs. Prince George Cougars (2-3-1-0)

7 pm CN Centre

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16 THE REASON WHY: The Kelowna Rockets outlasted the Prince George Cougars Friday, winning 7-6 in overtime, in a back-and-forth game. Kole Lind (Canucks ’17) scored the game-winner, two and a half minutes into the three-on-three session. Lind was the Rocket responsible for forcing OT, as he tied the game with just three and a half minutes left in regulation. Prince George led for three quarters of the game, and had three separate two-goals before the Rockets rallied in the third period. Kody McDonald and Jared Bethune each had a goal and two helpers for three-point nights; five Cougars had two or more points in the OT setback. Lind led the Rockets attack, with a pair of goals and three points. Dillon Dube (Calgary ’16) had a goal and two helpers and Erik Gardiner had two goals and three points as well.

COUGARS-ROCKETS: The Cougars are still in search of their first win at the CN Centre this season. Through three games at home, the Cougars have a record of 0-2-1-0. It’s early but Kelowna has won both its road games thus far, beating Kamloops on September 23rd, and the Cougars last night. Tonight, is the second of eight games between the two BC Division rivals. The season series resumes in Kelowna on October 28th and these two don’t meet again at the CN Centre until February 27th. McDonald is riding a three-game point streak coming into tonight’s tilt; in his last three games, he has four goals and seven points. Bethune also is riding a three-game point streak, picking up a goal and five points since last Sunday. Dennis Cholowski has at least a single point in all four games he has played.

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, 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.

COUGARS TRIM ROSTER: 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.

JA‘C’KSON LEPPARD RANKED BY CENTRAL SCOUTING: NHL Central Scouting published its September Players to Watch List and the Cougars’ Jackson Leppard is rated as a ‘C’ prospect; he’s projected as a fourth to sixth round NHL draft pick. The 17-year-old Leppard has a goal and an assist in four games this season to go along with an even plus / minus rating. In 35 games as year as a 16-year-old, the North Vancouver, BC, product had a pair of goals and four points. Leppard was selected by the Cougars in the first round (8th overall) in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. He appeared in two games as an under-ager during the 2015-16 season and joined the team full-time in 2016-17. 27 WHL players were named to the NHL Central Scouting List. Spokane’s Ty Smith was the only WHL’er assigned an ‘A’ rating. Five were given ‘B’ ratings and 21 others, including Leppard, were rated as ‘C’ prospects. The ‘A’ rating indicates a first round candidate, a ‘B’ rating indicates a second or third round candidate, and a ‘C’ rating indicates a fourth, fifth, or sixth round candidate.

TAVIN GRANT WHL GOALIE OF THE WEEK: The Western Hockey League announced Monday that Cougars goaltender Tavin Grant has been named the WHL Goaltender of the for the week ending October 2, 2017. Grant, a product of Burnaby, B.C., put together a dazzling 47-save shutout of the Portland Winterhawks Sunday, delivering the Cougars their first victory of the season in the form of a 3-0 triumph. The netminder stopped 12 shots in each of the first two periods and made 23 more in the final period to hand the Winterhawks their first loss of the season, picking up his first career WHL shutout in the process. He followed that up by stopping 17 of 19 shots Wednesday against Kamloops for his second consecutive win. In three starts this year, Grant owns a 2-1 record, sporting a 2.02 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. Grant ranks seventh in goals-against average and sixth in save percentage in the WHL.

THREE PROSPECTS AT 2017 WHL CUP: The WHL announced the rosters for the rebranded 2017 WHL Cup Wednesday morning, and the Cougars are represented by three prospects. Forward Tyson Phare will play on Team BC, and forwards Stanley Cooley and Boston Maxwell will play on Team Saskatchewan. Phare was the Cougars’ first round pick, 18th overall, in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Cooley was selected in the third round, 62nd overall, and Maxwell was picked in the 4th round, 84th overall. Previously known as the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, the tournament features the highest-rated players in the under-16 age category from the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The tournament will take place from Wednesday, October 18 through Sunday, October 22 in Calgary.

PAYING IMMEDIATE DIVIDENDS: Dennis Cholowski returned to the Cougars from the Detroit Red Wings last Friday and he’s made an immediate impact. The 19-year-old defenseman has two goals and five points in his first four games. Cholowski scored his first WHL goal Friday in Seattle, then added four assists in the last two games; he scored in his home debut Friday. Cholowski was returned to Prince George by the Red Wings last week after playing four pre-season games with the Detroit, where he picked up an assist and averaged 19-minutes of ice time.

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