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GAME PREVIEW: GM #31 Cougars at Seattle Thunderbirds

COUGARS LOOK FOR FIRST WIN OF ROAD TRIP IN SEATTLE

The Prince George Cougars (11-16-1-2) continue their five-game pre-Christmas road trip tonight, as they take on the Seattle Thunderbirds (10-14-3-0) at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. The Cougars have lost their last two, back-to-back losses in Portland over the weekend. The T-Birds are coming off a weekend split, winning 4-1 Friday against the Tri-City Americans, before dropping a 2-1 decision at home to the Everett Silvertips on Saturday.

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COUGARS PRE-SCOUT: Tonight, the Cougars look to end a four-game road losing streak. Tonight’s game is game three of a five-game pre-Christmas break road trip that ends December 16th against the Giants. After the Christmas break, it’s six-straight on the road, starting December 28th in Seattle. Their next home game isn’t until January 11th against the Kelowna Rockets. The Cougars come into tonight’s game sitting fifth in the B.C. Division, two points back of the fourth place Kamloops Blazers and third place Victoria Royals. The Cougars have lost six of their last seven games. Tonight, is the third of four games against the T-Birds this season. The Cougars swept the T-Birds in a weekend double-header in Prince George in November. The Cougars won 4-1 on November 2nd, and 2-0 on November 3rd. Prior to this season, the Cougars had lost four-straight to the T-Birds.  The Cougars are 4-7-1-1 on the road this season but have won just one of their last seven road games (1-5-1-0). Their last road win was November 11th in Vancouver. The Cougars are 2-5-0-1 against the U.S. Division. Vladislav Mikhalchuk leads the Cougars in scoring with 23 points (9-14-23) in 30 games. He’s followed by Cole Moberg (7-11-18) and Josh Maser (9-8-17). Maser and Mikhalchuk are tied for the team goal-scoring lead, as each has nine goals. Taylor Gauthier leads the Cougars in games played (23), minutes played (1323), wins (7) and saves (624). Isaiah DiLaura leads the Cougars in goals-against average (2.94) and save percentage (.904). Both DiLaura and Gauthier each have one shutout. Vladislav Mikhalchuk (5-1-6) has six points in his last five games. Josh Maser (2-2-4) had four points in his last two games. Moberg leads the Cougars in scoring against Seattle, with four points (1-3-4) in two games. The Cougars power-play is 3-25 in the last five games, surrendering one short-handed goal. The Cougars penalty-kill is 15-21 in the last five games. The Cougars are 3-3-0-0 in their last six games in Seattle. Tyson Phare (lower-body) and Cam MacPhee (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.

THUNDERBIRDS PRE-SCOUT: The Seattle Thunderbirds have been in a bit of a rough patch since November, losing 12 of their last 15 games (3-11-1-0) dating back to October 30th. They sit fifth in the U.S. Division, with 23 points in 27 games. They’re four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The T-Birds are playing their second game of a three-game home stand, which concludes Friday against the Spokane Chiefs. At home this season, the T-Birds are 6-6-2-0; they’ve won two of their five home games. The T-Birds are 4-6-0-0 against the B.C. Division. Zack Andrusiak leads the T-Birds in scoring with 26 points (19-7-26) in 27 games, followed by Matthew Wedman (9-16-25) and Nolan Volcan (7-18-25) who each have 25 points. Andrusiak is the runaway goal-scoring leader with 19. The next closest T-Bird is Noah Philp who has 10. Like Shane Farkas in Portland, Liam Hughes has been a workhorse in goal for the T-Birds, playing in 23 of their 27 games. Hughes leads the team in games played (23), minutes played (1357), saves (757) and wins (9). He also has a solid .910 save percentage. Rookie Cole Schwebius has played in five games, including one start against Prince George, and is 1-2-1-0 on the season, owning a .915 save percentage. The T-Birds have been a banged up group throughout the season, most noticeably missing their top defenceman Jarret Tyszka for the first 25 games. Tyska came off the injured reserve last weekend to make his season debut against Tri-City. They also have defenceman Reece Harsch and forward Payton Mount back from injury. However, defenceman Loeden Schaufler was hurt on Saturday and is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Rookie forward Matt Savey is also listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. The T-Birds are 3-2-0-1 in their last six home games against the Cougars.

COUGARS LEADERS

Goals: (9) Josh Maser, Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Assists: (14) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Points: (23) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Power-Play Goals: (4)  Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Short-handed Goals: (1) Jackson LeppardTyson Upper

PIMS: (73) Austin Crossley

THUNDERBIRDS LEADERS:

Goals: (19) Zack Andrusiak

Assists: (18) Nolan Volcan

Points: (26) Zack Andrusiak

Power-Play Goals: (3) Zack Andrusiak

Short-handed Goals: (1) 4-tied

PIMS: (49) Matthew Wedman

 

COUGARS FOCUS

  1. Jump Start the Offence: The Cougars were shutout in their last game against the Winterhawks and haven’t scored an even-strength goal since December 2nd against the Royals; they’ve scored just six goals in their last three games. How do you try and squeeze more offence out of your group? Keep plugging away. One thing the Cougars will focus on tonight is secondary opportunities. They didn’t get a lot of rebound chances in their last two games. They need to find a way to get more bodies to the net and create secondary chances. They also need to find a way to get more rubber on goal. They had just 22 shots on goal in their last game and are averaging just 23 shots on goal in their last four games.
  2. Puck Management: Something touched on before but the Cougars need to be sharper with the puck. Over the weekend, their mistakes ended up in the back of their net. Seattle isn’t a high-scoring team, so making them earn their chances is key. They need to be smart with the puck in their own end and through the neutral zone. Make the opposition come 200 feet and not give them unearned opportunities.
  3. Energy: They had a good first period in Saturday’s setback against the Winterhawks and were unlucky to be down a goal. But the Cougars need that type of energy at the start of tonight’s game. It should be a great atmosphere, as the T-Birds have their “2-for-1 Tuesday” promotion, which usually brings in big crowds. Embrace the hustle environment. The Cougars need to have their legs going early and find a way to dictate the game. Rough up the home team.
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