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Preview: Cougars vs. Americans (GM #40)

The Prince George Cougars (15-18-4-2) look for the weekend sweep tonight against the Tri-City Americans (20-12-5-0) at the CN Centre. It’s the second of four meetings between the two teams and  they’ll play three times over the next week, as they meet again in Kennewick on January 13th.

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Jared Bethune led the way Friday, picking up his second career hat-trick, as he scored goals 10, 11 and 12; that after not scoring since December 2nd. Josh Maser also scored and finished with three points and defencemen Dennis Cholowski, Joel Lakusta and Josh Anderson combined for five points. Tavin Grant was sharp in goal, turning aside 34 of 37 shots in the win.

Tri-City got goals from Nolan Yaremko, Sasha Mutala and Riley Sawchuk in a losing cause. The Americans have dropped the first two games on their four-game BC Division road trip; they’re in Kamloops tomorrow afternoon.

The Cougars made another splash in the trade market Saturday, acquiring defencemen Rhett Rhinehart, Austin Crossley and a first-round WHL Bantam Draft pick from the Prince Albert Raiders. The Cougars sent forward Kody McDonald and a conditional fourth-round pick back to the Raiders. More details on the trade can be found HERE. The trade leaves the Cougars with four 16-year-olds on their roster.

Prince George has won five straight against the Americans dating back to last season, as they outscored them 20-7 in those four wins a season ago. Both teams are in the thick of it, when it comes to their respective schedules.

The Cougars are in a stretch of playing four games in six nights and if you take it one step further they play five games in the next seven days. The Americans are in the midst of a stretch that has them playing eight in just 13 days.

Tonight marks the debuts of Rhett Rhinehart and Kjell Kjemhus, two of the handful of new faces added to the Cougars roster this week. Rhinehart, a 16-year-old defenceman, will wear number three, and fellow 16-year-old Kjemhus will wear number 12 up front.

The Americans were missing defenceman Jusso Valimaki and forwards Michael Rasmussen and Kyle Olson last night; all three are NHL drafted. Rasmussen won’t return until late January from a wrist injury, and Valimaki likely won’t play again tonight, after his stint at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, New York, with Team Finland.

Tavin Grant will get the start in goal and is coming off that 34-save performance last night. He’s 10-10-3-0 on the season, sporting a 3.18 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. Patrick Dea played last night for the Americans, so you’d assume Beck Warm will get the nod tonight. Warm is 11-5-1-0, owning a 3.38 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.

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