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Preview: Cougars at Royals (GM #2)

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The Prince George Cougars look for a weekend split against the Victoria Royals at Save on Foods Memorial Centre. The Royals edged the Cougars 2-1 in a shootout Friday, that went five-rounds, before Victoria’s Dino Kambeitz, the 10thshooter, was the only one to score at either end.

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Josh Maser broke a scoreless deadlock in the third period, scoring his first of the season to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. However, with the extra-attacker out, the Royals tied the game with 67-seconds left in regulation, as Brandon Cutler put home a rebound to force extra time. Both goaltenders were spectacular, as Taylor Gauthier and Griffen Outhouse combined to stop 61-shots through 65-minutes.

A win tonight and the Cougars leave Vancouver Island with three out of a possible four points.

The Cougars

Head coach: Richard Matvichuk

2018-19 record: 0-0-0-1, 4th in 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)

 

Bounce Back: The Cougars look to take three out of a possible four point from the Royals tonight, as they face-off with their B.C. Division rival once again at Save on Foods Memorial Centre. Friday didn’t unfold how the Cougars would have liked, as they just missed out taking the full two points. But, the team did pick up a single point and a win tonight makes it a pretty good weekend overall.

One message the coaching staff will want to get across prior to tonight’s game, is being more aggressive. The Cougars were a bit tentative in the first period Friday, especially in their own end and if it wasn’t for Taylor Gauthier’s acrobatics, the Royals could have had a sizeable lead after 2o-minutes. With all that said, the team did seem to shake off the opening night jitters as they game moved into the second and third period; they looked more comfortable. Tonight they’ll need to be more assertive in their own end, especially when it comes to breakouts.

One other area they need to be more aggressive in is puck battles. The coaching staff this season is tracking puck battles and the Cougars seemed to be on the wrong end of too many one night ago. Circling back, it may have been a case of opening night jitters, but this team is built on being aggressive and being quick. They’ll need to roll up the sleeves and get back to those two principles.

Reinforcements: Prince George’s blue-line will get a big boost with the insertion of veteran defencemen Austin Crossley and Joel Lakusta. The two were suspended for last night’s game but are both eligible to return tonight. Crossley will certainly help the Cougars be more aggressive and assertive, especially in their own zone. Lakusta will be a key offensive piece from the back-end, as the Cougars will count on his puck rushing ability, and also will expect him to help generate offence.

Last night the Cougars had a couple of hiccups on the back-end but asserting those two veterans will certainly stabilize things going forward.

More Rubber: The Cougars will need to find a way to generate more shots on Victoria’s Griffen Outhouse. They did have 27 shots through regulation but Outhouse is one of the top goaltenders in the league and they’ll need to make his night more difficult. It’s not just shot generation but traffic too. Coaches will tell you, to beat a good goalie, you have to take his eyes away. Prince George will certainly need to increase the volume thrown at the Victoria net.

 

The Opposition: Royals

Head coach: Dan Price

2018-19 record: 1-0-0-0, 3rd in B.C. Division

20-year-olds: C Dante Hannoun (25-54-79), D Ralph Jarratt (2-13-15), G Griffen Outhouse (35-17-4-1, 3.08 GAA, 0.914 SV%, 2 SO)

Imports: LW Igor Martynov (Belarus), Phillip Schultz (Denmark)

 

The Royals will have a different look than they have had in recent years. Usually known for their high-end skill and playmaking ability, this year’s squad looks more like a hard-working, gritty group, that will have a scoring by committee approach; much like Prince George. Yes, they have 20-year-old Dante Hannoun to lead the offence up front but after him, there isn’t many established scorers within their forward group- yet.

They certainly have potential to have a couple of players to develop into very promising scorers, including import forward Igor Martynov and sophomore right-winger Tarun Fizer. Martynov had 18-goals last season and will be looking to hit that 25-goal plateau this season. He was certainly shifty last night and set up a couple of quality scoring chances. Fizer had just two goals last season as a 16-year-old but many believe he is due for a breakout sophomore campaign. Brandon Cutler, who came over from Red Deer this off-season, was probably the Royals best forward last night and he’ll be expected to be a difference maker as the season goes on.

The blue-line is in pretty good shape, as returnees Ralph Jarratt, Mitchell Prowse and Matthew Smith provided stability last night. Veteran Scott Walford was absent last night after just being sent back to the Royals yesterday by the Montreal Canadiens. Walford will be a big piece on the Royals blue-line this season.

Victoria knows they’ll likely have to kick it up a notch as well tonight, as they very well know they’re going to face a hungry, motivated Cougars team. Emotions certainly came to a boil in the third period Friday. Do they carry over tonight?

 

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