Game Preview: Cougars vs. Giants (GM #7)
The Prince George Cougars are looking for a Thanksgiving long weekend split, as they face the Vancouver Giants for the second time in as many night at the CN Centre. Last night, the Giants struck first, scoring a 3-0 win, with a three-goal third period. In fact, the Giants scored three goals in under four-minutes to break a 0-0 deadlock in the third period. Owen Hardy, Justin Sourdif and Lukas Svejkovsky scored for Vancouver and David Tendeck stopped all 24-shots he faced. Friday was the first shutout for the Cougars since February 12th, of last season against Red Deer. The Cougars have lost back-t0-back games and the Giants have won three-straight.
Head coach: Richard Matvichuk
2018-19 record: 2-3-0-1, 3rd B.C. Division
20-year-olds: RW Josh Curtis (9-27-36), RW Mike McLean (2-2-4), D Joel Lakusta (9-33-42)
Imports: LW Matéj Toman (Czech Republic), RW Vladislav Mikhalchuk (Belarus)
Last Game: 3-0 L vs. Vancouver
BOUNCE BACK: The Cougars are wanting to turn things around at home. After winning their home opener on September 28th, they’ve lost back-to-back games at home and have only scored twice in those two defeats. Going into this season, coaches and players have emphasized how important it is to turn around their fortunes at home and make the CN Centre a tough place for visiting teams. Remember, last season the Cougars won only 13 of 36 home games. They started off with a bang, scoring that 3-2 win over the Kelowna Rockets eight days ago, but have struggled to find their offensive rhythm since. Now, it’s early, so you can move your hand away from the panic button, but the team will certainly want to feel good about themselves. Prince George will want a positive result out of tonight’s game, as they don’t return home until October 21st.
STRUCTURE: Prince George played a very well for 50-55 minutes last night. It was a five-minute sequence where they went away from their structure and the Giants capitalized and in a big way, scoring three goals in a four-minute span. Through two periods, the Cougars held the Giants scoreless and to just 15-shots. However, they started trading chances early in the third and it was the Giants scoring two goals on two odd-man rushes just two-minutes and 13-seconds apart. A tough stretch for for Prince George, as they other wise played they way they wanted to: being physical and disrupting the Giants breakout. The Cougars will need more of that physical, structured and disciplined hockey tonight.
JUMP START: The Cougars have a few players that know they can certainly provide more offence. Jack Leppard, Josh Curtis and Joel Lakusta are still in search of their first goals. Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Ilijah Colina have two goals, and Josh Maser has just one. The Cougars aren’t built to have a prolific offence but they have a group of players, like the names just listed, that will need to find their touch soon. The Cougars have been creating chances but the finish isn’t quite there yet. They have veterans, offensive go-to guys, that will need to roll up their sleeves and find a way to produce and soon.
Head coach: Michael Dyck
2018-19 record: 5-1-0-0, 2nd in the B.C. Division
20-year-olds: D Matt Barberis, RW Jared Dmytriw, RW Davis Koch
Imports: C Milos Roman, RW Yannik Valenti
Last Game: 3-0 W at Prince George
The Giants haven’t allowed a goal in 145-minutes and 36 seconds. The last team to get a puck past one of Vancouver’s goaltenders was Spokane last Sunday in the Giants 5-4 shootout win. David Tendeck was very good one night ago, stopping all 24-shots he faced and made a pair of clutch saves on Tyson Upper, who had two grade ‘A’ chances to break the 0-0 tie. Also have to give credit to the Giants blue-line, despite missing two regulars in Bailey Dhaliwal and Matt Barberis, they have blanked the opposition in the last two games. As a team, the Giants have only allowed nine goals against in six-games, which is tied for the fewest goals allowed in the WHL. Last night, the likes of Dylan Plouffe, Kaleb Bulych, Bowen Byram and Alex Kannok-Leipert did a lot of heavy lifting on the blue-line.
If the Cougars are going to better the Giants, they’ll need to strike first and quickly. Vancouver is 4-0-0-0 when scoring first and 2-0-0-0 when lead after 20-minutes. Vancouver loves playing with the lead and when they get one, they look for two and three right away; a potent offence. Prince George needs to find a way to force the Giants to play from behind, make them play out of their comfort zone. When the Giants don’t score first, they’re just 1-1-0-0. Make them vulnerable.