The Prince George Cougars look for the weekend split against the Vancouver Giants tonight at the CN Centre. Last night, the Giants took the weekend opener, 5-3, as they’ve now strung together back-to-back wins. on the flip side, the Cougars dropped their fifth consecutive game and now are six points back of the Giants in the BC Division, and five points out of a Wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
Tyler Benson led the way for Vancouver, scoring twice Friday and finished with three points; his fifth three-point game since November 4th. Ty Ronning, Milos Roman and James Malm also scored for the Giants who climbed back to the 500 mark for the first time since November 17th.
Jared Bethune, Josh Anderson and Josh Maser scored for the Cougars and Tavin Grant stopped 30 of 34 shots in the loss. Friday marked the Cougars 10th home loss in 14 games, as their record slipped to 4-8-2-0 at the CN Centre. Their four home wins is tied for the second-fewest in the WHL, as the Edmonton Oil Kings only have three. The Cougars have been swept four times already in double-headers at home, but despite that dubious mark, they know they can be a whole lot better on home ice.
One silver-lining in Friday’s setback was defenceman Dennis Cholowski extending his point streak to five games with his assist. In his last five, Cholowski has two goals and four assists; he has points in seven of his last eight games.
Two areas the Cougars will need to focus on is their start and their special teams. Prince George has beens scored on first in five of their last six games and have only scored first in three of their last 11. Last night Vancouver not only opened the scoring but they had eight of the first nine shots on net. The Cougars are 6-4-0-1 when the score first but more importantly, they’ve won six of eight games when they lead after the first period. They’ve only won one of 13 games when trailing after the first period.
The power-play did score last night but finished 1-5 and the Cougars missed an opportunity early in the game, when the failed to scored on a four-minute power-play. The penalty-kill has also hit a speed bump, as they’ve allowed a power-play goal in nine straight games. A successful penalty-kill is when it outworks the opposition’s power-play. Prince George needs to get back to its old habits, when they were the number one ranked penalty-kill in October and parts of November.
Looks like Taylor Gauthier will get the start in goal, as he last played November 22nd against the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Cougars may tinker with their line up beyond that but that won’t be made official until closer to game time.
Vancouver started David Tendeck in goal last night and he was solid, stopping 32 of 35 shots. Tendeck and Todd Scott have split the majority of the Giants’ games this season, so does that mean it’s Scott’s turn to guard the crease tonight?
The Giants were also without three regular defencemen last night in Bailey Dhaliwal, Matt Barberis and Bowen Byram. They short-staffed blue-line did an admirable job, but can they hold up on back-to-back nights, if the Cougars take a more physical approach?
Dennis Cholowski 1-2-3
Jared Bethune 1-1-2
Ryan Schoettler 1-1-2
Aaron Boyd 0-2-2
Josh Anderson 1-0-1
Tyler Benson 3-1-4
Dylan Plouffe 0-3-3
Milos Roman 1-1-2
Brendan Semchuk 0-2-2
James Malm 1-0-1