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GAME PREVIEW: GM 3 at Kamloops Blazers

Photo: Allen Douglas

Last Game: The Prince George Cougars fell to 0-2-0-0 on the new season Friday, after their 6-4 setback in Langley to the Vancouver Giants. The Cougars trailed 3-1 after 20-minutes before clawing back to tie it 3-3 in the second. Vancouver then scored three-straight to go up 6-3, before a late Jonny Hooker goal made it 6-4. Carter MacAdams, Kyren Gronick, Hudson Thornton, and Hooker scored. Taylor Gauthier was tagged with the loss after he surrendered six goals on 35 shots. The power-play went 0-5 and the penalty-kill was 2-3.

Tonight’s game: Tonight, is the second of 12 meetings between the two teams. One week ago, the Blazers spoiled the Cougars’ home opener with a 5-4 victory. In that game, it was Connor Levis scoring the game-winning goal at 15:09 of the third on a Blazers’ power-play. The Cougars were 1-5-0-0 in six games last season against Kamloops.

Season Series

GM 1 Oct 2nd vs. Kamloops 5-4 L GM 7 Jan 1st at Kamloops
GM 2 Oc 9th at Kamloops GM 8 Jan 21st vs. Kamloops
GM 3 Oct 30th vs. Kamloops GM 9 Jan 22nd at Kamloops
GM 4 Dec 11th vs. Kamloops GM 10 Mar 8th at Kamloops
GM 5 Dec 17th at Kamloops  GM 11 Mar 30th at Kamloops
GM 6 Dec 31st vs. Kamloops GM 12 April 3rd vs. Kamloops

Prince George Cougars

General Manager & Head Coach: Mark Lamb

2021-22 Record: GP 2 0-2-0-0 (4th B.C.)

2020-21 Record vs. Kamloops: 1-5-0-0

Away: 0-1-0-0

Streak: 0-2-0-0

Last Game: 6-4 loss at Vancouver Giants (Oct 8th)

Scoring Leaders : Hudson Thornton (2-2-4), Kyren Gronick (2-1-3), Jonny Hooker (2-1-3), Riley Heidt (1-2-3), Craig Armstrong (0-2-2).

Game Notes

  • Seven days after the Blazers spoiled the Cougars’ home opener, Prince George has a chance to return the favour tonight. Kamloops is expecting a capacity crowd (50 percent seating limit) and the Cougars are looking for their first win against the Blazers since April 28th, when the scored a 5-1 win during the B.C. Division Hub season.
  • The offence certainly isn’t the problem for Prince George. Through two games they have scored eight goals. Their four goals per-game average is tied for sixth in the WHL. It’s early, but only Vancouver has scored more goals (11) than Prince George in the B.C. Division.
  • A couple of Cougars are off to good starts. Rookie forward Riley Heidt is tied for second among WHL Rookies with three points (1-2-3) through two games. Hudson Thornton sits fourth in the WHL in defenceman with four points (2-2-2) in a pair of game.
  • The Cougars’ starts are an area of concern, albeit very early into this season. Prince George has allowed five first period goals which is tied for the most in the WHL. In their first game, they were down 2-0 after 20-minutes and last night they fell behind 3-1. It’s definitely encouraging to see this young group come back from multi-goal deficits in back-to-back games, but playing from behind isn’t a trend you want to keep up with.
  • With any young team, consistency is one of the biggest challenges. The Cougars have scored eight goals this season but five have come in the second period. They’ve only scored once in the first period and twice in third periods this season. Tonight, against the defending B.C. Division champions, they’ll need a solid 60-minute effort.
  • The power-play will need to find a way to get on track. Again, with all these stats, it’s early but the man-advantage was 0-5 last night and just 1-8 through two games. Lots of talent on both units, it will come.

Kamloops Blazers

General Manager & Head Coach: Shaun Clouston

2021-22 Record: GP 1 1-0-0-0 (2nd B.C. Division)

2020-21 Record vs. Prince George: 2-4-0-0

Home: 0-0-0-0

Streak: 1-0-0-0

Last Game: 5-4 win at Prince George Cougars (Oct 2nd)

Scoring Leaders : Josh Pillar (1-1-2), Nick McCarry (0-2-2), Dylan Sydor (0-2-2), Reese Belton (1-0-1), Connor Levis (1-0-1).

Game Notes

  • The two-time defending B.C. Division champions return 20 players from last year’s squad. What is impressive is how this team was built predominately through the WHL Draft. 20 players are drafted,  three listed, and only one player was acquired via trade.
  • The Blazers have five NHL drafted players on their roster: Goaltender Dylan Garand (NY Rangers), defenceman Viktor Persson (Canucks), forwards Josh Pillar (Wild), Caedan Bankier (Wild), and hometown product Logan Stankoven (Stars).
  • General Manager & Head Coach is behind the bench for his third season but first as both the GM and bench boss. Clouston has 451 career wins in the WHL, which is second among active coaches.
  • The Blazers are a bit older than the Cougars, as they have nine players that are 19 or older but they have 12 on their roster that are 17 and younger. This team is poised to have a nice window of success.
  • How good are the Blazers at home? Over the past two seasons they have won 34 of 41 home games. That’s a .765 win percentage. Impressive. In the B.C. Division Hub the Blazers won 10 of 11 “home games” and during the 2019-20 season, they won 24 of 30. The Sandman Centre has been challenging for visiting teams.

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