Preview: Cougars vs. Giants (GM #41)

The Prince George Cougars continue their four-game home stand tonight against their BC Divisional rivals, the Vancouver Giants. Tonight is the seventh of eight meetings between the two rivals, and they’ve split the previous six encounters.


Prior to the game on Tuesday, the Cougars made another move, acquiring defenceman Cameron MacPhee from the Medicine Hat Tigers, for a seventh-round selection in the WHL Bantam Draft. MacPhee, 18, is described as a steady, puck-moving defenceman who defends well. More details on today’s trade can be found HERE.

The Cougars are coming off a weekend split against the Tri-City Americans, in which they took three out of a possible four points. The Cougars won 4-3 Friday, before losing 6-5 shootout in on Saturday. All in all, a solid weekend against the third place team in the US Division. If you look at the big picture, despite the roster turnover in the last week and a half, the Cougars are playing some pretty good hockey. Since the Christmas break, they’ve picked up nine out of a possible 12 points, fashioning together a 3-1-1-1 record. Not only impressive considering all the trades, but also the strength of schedule, as they played Victoria, Vancouver and Tri-City in their last six; all teams that are third place or higher in their respective divisions.

The season series against the Giants has been one of the most entertaining match ups this season. The Cougars are 3-2-1-0 against the Giants, despite being 14-points back of Vancouver, who are second in the BC Division. The two team split in Prince George back on December 1st and 2nd, and did so most recently in Langley, whey they each earned overtime victories over the New Year’s long weekend.

Captain Dennis Cholowski says the influx of younger talent will provide a lot of energy to the line up going forward, “When you’re a young guy, you have something to prove. You’re the first one on the ice, the last one off and you’re eager to show the coaches what you can do. I know our younger guys are fired up for these two big divisional games.”

Since losing to the Cougars on December 30th, the Giants have won four straight, including a 5-3 win Saturday in Medicine Hat. The Giants swept their three-game Alberta road trip, winning 5-2 in Lethbridge and 4-3, in a shootout, in Edmonton. They’ve seen the Cougars quite a bit recently, as tonight is the fifth meeting against Prince George in their last 10 games. The Giants are not only second in the BC Division but also in the Western Conference, sitting just two points back of the Kelowna Rockets. Vancouver has won five of their last six and eight of their last 10.

The Giants also made a splash in the WHL Trade Deadline marketMonday, swapping 20-year-olds with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Giants picked up defenceman Brennan Riddle from the Hurricanes for former Cougar Brad Morrison.

Cholowski leads the Cougars in scoring  against the Giants with 10 points (5-5-10) in six games. He’s coming off back-to-back two-goal games against Vancouver and has points in six straight games (5-7-12). Jared Bethune has eight points (2-6-8) against the G-Men and Josh Curtis has six points (2-4-6). Tavin Grant, who will start tonight, has a very tidy 2.50 goals-against average and owns a .927 save percentage against Vancouver in four games; he loves playing his hometown team.

Tyler Benson leads the Giants against the Cougars with eight points (3-5-8), followed by Ty Ronning (5-1-6) and Jared Dmytriw (3-2-5). David Tendeck and Todd Scott have split the six games against the Cougars this season, but Tendeck has a shutout against the Cats and in three games has a .938 save percentage.

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