PREVIEW: COUGARS VS BLAZERS (GAME #72)
One point. One simple measly point is all it will take for the Prince George Cougars to finish what they started way back on September 23rd in Victoria. After that 3-1 victory on Vancouver Island in Game 1 of their season, the Cougars haven’t looked back since, leading the division wire-to-wire heading into tonight. Following a 3-1 victory last night in Kamloops the Cougars return home for tonight’s regular season finale looking to secure their first ever B.C. Division championship. In 23 seasons the Cougars have never had this many wins and this many regular season signature moments. Tonight they look to add one more to that list when they take the ice for one final time against their closest WHL rivals.
Road Record: 15-15-1-4
Last Game: A 3-1 home ice loss last night against the Cougars
Goals For/Goals Against: 241 GF/197 GA
Power Play: 17.2% (2oth in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (2nd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Deven Sideroff (67GP – 36G – 42A – 78PTS), Rudolfs Balcers (65GP – 40G – 36A – 76PTS), Lane Bauer (70GP – 36G – 34A – 70PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Collin Shirley: The Blazers captain comes into tonight’s game leading all Blazers with five goals and two assists for seven points against the Cougars. For his career against the Cougars, Shirley has now posted 15 goals an 12 assists for 27 points in 25 career games against the Cougars.
Garrett Pilon: The Washington Capitals prospect assisted on the Blazers only goal last night and has put together a formidable second season in the WHL with 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points to go along with a +27 rating.
WHO’S ON D:
Dallas Valentine: The 20-year-old was named the Kamloops Blazers ‘Unsung Hero’ for 2016-17 and for good reason. His two goals and 13 assists this season are complimented by his +17 all while accumulating just four penalty minutes! The 20-year-old has been a solid contributor now for the past two seasons in Kamloops.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Dylan Ferguson?: Last night’s loss for Kamloops coupled with Kelowna’s victory against Vancouver deems tonight’s game meaningless from a standings standpoint, which could mean that Dylan Ferguson gets the nod as opposed to Connor Ingram. Ingram to his credit played well last night for Kamloops turning aside 35 saves on 38 shots faced and was named the game’s second star in the building. Ferguson has had a great season for Kamloops and is certainly capable. He’s 15-10-0-2 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.82 goals-against-average.
The role of Spoiler: The Blazers have now dropped three straight games to the Cougars in the month of March and have only two wins to their credit in seven tries against PG. That said a victory for Kamloops tonight on the road would be crushing for the Cougars in their pursuit of a division crown and would also make a Blazers-Cougars first round matchup very likely. How badly do the Blazers want to spoil the Cougars B.C. Division plans? We’ll find out tonight.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Home Record: 22-10-1-2
Last Game: A 3-1 victory last night in Kamloops
Goals For/Goals Against: 252 GF/199 GA
Power Play: 17.8% (16th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (3rd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Jansen Harkins (63GP – 21G – 51A – 72PTS), Nikita Popugaev (70GP – 29G – 40A – 69PTS), Jesse Gabrielle (60GP – 35G – 29A – 64PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jesse Gabrielle: The Boston Bruins prospect had two goals last night and now has seven goals and five assists for 12 points in seven games this season against Kamloops. Gabrielle has now surpassed the 35 goal mark in each of his past two seasons and will look to finish his regular season strong tonight.
Nikita Popugaev: Last night the big Russian played the role of play-maker as he set up both of Gabrielle’s goals and looked darn good doing it. Popugaev is now sitting at 69 points for the season and sits one goal shy of 30. Popugaev has now recorded at least a point in eight of his last 10 games.
WHO’S ON D:
Josh Anderson: Last night the Colorado Avalanche prospect had a pair of assists and finished the game a +2. Through 68 games this season Anderson has potted three goals along with eight assists and is a very solid +13 with 75 penalty minutes. The biggest key for Anderson this season: health. He’s had a remarkable 2017 having done everything asked of him by the coaching staff, and it’s great to see his game trending upwards at this time of year.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: Last night’s victory in Kamloops marked the 100th career WHL victory for Ty Edmonds who made 24 saves on 25 shots faced. His best saves came in the third period when Kamloops mounted their best push back. Tonight it will likely be Edmonds again as he’ll be tasked with leading the Cougars to what could be their first ever B.C. Division title. He’s 31-16-2-2 this season with a 2.53 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .914.
Energy: Yes there will be fatigue. Yes there will be pressure. But with the noise of the crowd and the pride in that locker room, the Cougars should have no trouble ‘getting up’ for a game of this magnitude. This team has accomplished so much already in 2016-17 and it would very fitting for them wrap it all up with a division title. All it will take a single point tonight at home.