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GAME PREVIEW: GM #27 Cougars vs. Victoria Royals

COUGARS HOST ROYALS IN WEEKEND DOUBLE-HEADER

The Prince George Cougars (10-13-1-2) are back home for their only two games of December at the CN Centre, as they battle the Victoria Royals (12-9-0-0). The Cougars come into the weekend sitting fourth in the B.C. Division with 23 points in 26 games. The Royals sit in third, with 24 points in 23 games. The Cougars have lost their last three, including a 4-0 setback on Wednesday in Spokane. The Royals are coming off a 2-1 loss at home on Wednesday against the Saskatoon Blades. The Royals have lost three-straight as well.

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COUGARS PRE-SCOUT: Tonight, is the third of nine games between the Cougars and Royals. The Cougars are 0-1-0-1 in their previous two games against the Royals. These two teams haven’t played since the opening weekend of the WHL regular season back in September. The Cougars are coming off a 4-0 loss in Spokane on Wednesday, the second time the’ve been shutout this season. This weekend marks the only two home games in December for the Cougars, as they hit the road for 11-straight starting on December 7th; the Cougars don’t return home until January 11th against the Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets leap-frogged both the Cougars and Royals, in the B.C. Division standings, and now sit in second after their overtime win in Tri-City on Friday. The Royals sit one point back of the Rockets and the Cougars are a point back of the Royals; four big points on the table this weekend. The Cougars are 6-8-0-1 in 15 home games this season and have won two of their last three games at the CN Centre. Vladislav Mikhalchuk leads the Cougars in scoring with 19 points (6-13-17), followed by Cole Moberg (7-9-16) and Josh Maser (7-6-13) and Josh Curtis (6-7-13) who are tied with 13 points. Maser and Moberg are tied for the team goal-scoring lead, as each player has seven goals. Taylor Gauthier leads the team in games played (19), minutes played (1103), wins (6) and saves (521). Isaiah DiLaura leads the team in goals-against average (3.07) and save percentage (.902). Both DiLaura and Gauthier each have one shutout. The power-play is 5/24 in the last five games and has surrendered two short-handed goals. The penalty-kill is 25/27 in the last five games and has one short-handed goal. Ethan Browne and Josh Maser each have a goal against the Royals this season. Last season, in eight games against the Royals, Maser had six goals and eight points. Last season the Cougars were 3-3-2-0 against the Royals. The Cougars are 4-7-1-1 against the B.C. Division.

ROYALS PRE-SCOUT: Like the Cougars, the Royals have lost their last three, including Wednesday’s 2-1 setback against the Saskatoon Blades at home. The Royals have managed to score just one goal in each of those three losses. In fact, the Royals are second-lowest scoring team in the WHL, with 59 goals in 23 games. The Cougars are just ahead, with 60 goals in 26 games. After a 7-0-0-0 start to the season, the Royals have gone 5-9-0-0-0 since October 14th. Tonight kicks-off a busy stretch for the Royals who play five-straight on the road over the next eight days. After this weekend, the Royals are in Kamloops on Wednesday, then in Kelowna on Friday and visit Vancouver on Saturday. The Royals have won just one of their last five road games. The Royals won the season-opening double-header against the Cougars on September 21st and 22nd. They won 2-1 in a shootout on September 21st and 5-1 on September 22nd. Kaid Oliver leads the Royals in scoring with 22 points (14-8-22) in 20 games. Oliver is followed by D-Jay Jerome (11-8-19) and Dante Hannoun (7-9-16). Oliver leads the team in goal-scoring with 14 goals, followed by Jerome (11) and and Hannoun (7). 20-year-old Griffen Outhouse has been a workhorse in net for the Royals and leads the team in every major statical category, including wins (11), goals-against average (2.52) and save percentage (.920). He has also started the last 10 games but was injured in Wednesday’s loss to Saskatoon and won’t be in Prince George this weekend. The Royals are also missing another 20-year-old in Ralph Jarratt, who is listed with a lower-body injury. Jarratt hasn’t played since November 2nd. Going back to last season, the Royals are 7-2-1-0 in their last 10 games against the Cougars. The Royals are 8-5-0-0 against the B.C. Division.

COUGARS LEADERS

Goals: (7) Josh Maser, Cole Moberg

Assists: (13) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Points: (19) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Power-Play Goals: (3)  Vladislav Mikhalchuk, Cole Moberg

Short-handed Goals: (1) Jackson LeppardTyson Upper

PIMS: (65) Austin Crossley

 

ROYALS LEADERS

Goals: (14) Kaid Oliver

Assists: (12) Igor Martynov

Points: (22) Kaid Oliver

Power-Play Goals: (5) Kaid Oliver

Short-handed Goals: (2) Kaid Oliver

PIMS: (31) Mitchell Prowse

 

COUGARS FOCUS

  1. Win the Goaltending Battle: The Royals will be without their best player and arguably one of the best goaltenders in the WHL, in Griffen Outhouse this weekend. The veteran didn’t make the trip to Prince George this weekend as local media in Victoria are reporting a shoulder injury (CHEK TV). The Royals have 17-year-old rookie Brock Gould and have called up 15-year-old prospect Keegan Maddocks for this road trip. Gould has played just three games this season. Taylor Gauthier and Isaiah DiLaura need to find a way to use their experience to better the Victoria duo. Gauthier, despite the 4-0 loss Wednesday, was very good and arguably had one of his top five performances this season. Both teams struggle to score, as they’re in the bottom third in goals scored. Goaltending could be the biggest difference this weekend.
  2. Everything at the Net: Playing off the first key, the Cougars need to test the Royals inexperienced goaltenders. The Cougars offence has struggled of late as well and there’s only one remedy to cure that: more shots. When you’re facing two goalies without a ton of experience to their names, you need to make them feel uncomfortable. The Cougars need not only send a lot of pucks to the Royals crease but a lot of traffic as well. They need to use their size and physicality to their advantage. Create chaos and cash in on rebounds.
  3. Energy, Emotion: This is a divisional showdown. Four big points are on the table. These two teams are just separated by one point. The Cougars need to act like it. The coaching staff and players weren’t happy how they came out in their last divisional double-header against Kamloops. They were self admittedly flat in both games. There are the Cougars only two home games in December. Make them count and leave a lasting impression on your fans.
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