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PLAYOFF GAME HUB: GM 1 at Portland Winterhawks

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Season Review: The Prince George Cougars are back in the WHL Playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Cougars clinched sixth place in the Western Conference after their final game of the WHL Regular Season. The Cougars finished their 68-game schedule with a record of 24-39-4-1 and finished fourth in the B.C. Division. Prince George, Vancouver, and Spokane all finished with 53 points. The Cougars won a three-way tiebreaker on goal differential, setting up a First Round matchup with the Portland Winterhawks. Portland punched their ticket to the post-season in February and were second in the U.S. Division with 47 wins and 99 points.

Series Preview: What old is new again. The Cougars are back in the playoffs and once again facing the Portland Winterhawks. Prince George faced the Winterhawks in their last post-season appearance in 2017. Portland bettered the Cougars in six games in that opening round encounter. This is the fourth post-season series between these two teams. Prior to 2017, these two teams met in the WHL Playoffs in 2001 and 1997. The Winterhawks won in six games in 2001 and the Cougars prevailed in six in 1997. All four prior playoff encounters have ended in six games.

Game Visitor   Home Date Time
1 Prince George @ Portland Friday, April 22 7:00
2 Prince George @ Portland Saturday, April 23 6:00
3 Portland @ Prince George Tuesday, April 26 7:00
4 Portland @ Prince George Wednesday, April 27 7:00
5 * Prince George @ Portland Saturday, April 30 5:00
6 * Portland @ Prince George Monday, May 2 7:00
7 * Prince George @ Portland Wednesday, May 4 7:00

One of the main storylines is two players facing their former teams in this first-round matchup. In December, Prince George traded overage goaltender Taylor Gauthier to Portland, in exchange for 20-year-old blueliner Jonas Brøndberg. The Danish defender tallied six points (1G-5A) and played an important role on the Cougars’ blueline in 35 games. Gauthier had a 24-4-0-0 record in 28 games with the Winterhawks and four shutouts and signed an NHL contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Season Series: Portland won all four meetings in the Regular Season, outscoring the Cougars 22-8. Riley Heidt led the Cougars with five points (3G-2A) in four games against the Winterhawks. Hudson Thornton (1G-2A), Ethan Samson (0G-3A), and Koehn Ziemmer (0G-3A) all had three points. Winterhawks’ overage forward Jaydon Dureau had 11 points (2G-9A) in just three games against Prince George, including two four-point games. Tyson Kozak (3G-4A) and James Stefan (3G-4A) each had seven points against Prince George. The Cougars’ last win in Portland came back in the 2017-18 season, a 3-0 win on October 1st, 2017.


Prince George Cougars

General Manager & Head Coach: Mark Lamb

2021-22 Record: GP 68  24-39-4-1 (6th Western Conference)

Home: 12-18-3-1

Away: 12-21-1-0

Last 10: 4-4-2-0

Players to Watch

  • Ethan Samson: Thursday, Ethan Samson was named to the B.C. Division Second All-Star Team, during the WHL Division Awards presentation. Samson, 18, posted 43 points (15G-28A) in 68 Regular Season games. The Philadelphia Flyers draft pick led all Cougars’ defencemen with 15 goals and finished fourth in team scoring. His eight power play goals were tied for top spot on the team and his five game-winning goals were the most by a Cougars’ defenceman since 1997.
  • Ty Young: Young has had a solid month between the pipes. In April, the 17-year-old goaltender was 2-2-2-0 in six starts with a 2.35 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. He stepped up and shoulder the load when Tyler Brennan went down with an injury. It remains to be seen who gets the start in game one, but Young’s recent plays gives the Cougars two very good options in net against the Winterhawks.
  • Riley Heidt & Koehn Ziemmer: The two top point-getters for the Cougars get their first taste of playoff action. They will be counted on to set the tone offensively. It’s a tough test for two rookies to face-off against Portland’s top defence pairing and shutdown line. Heidt led the Cougars with 58 points and was closely followed by Ziemmer who had 57. Can they translate their regular season success into the playoffs?

Portland Winterhawks

General Manager & Head Coach: Mike Johnston

2021-22 Record: GP 68  47-16-3-2 (3rd Western Conference)

Home: 23-7-3-1

Away: 24-9-0-1

Last 10: 9-1-0-0

Players to Watch

  • Jaydon Dureau: The 20-year-old is an offensive leader for the Winterhawks . Only Cross Hanas (1.37) had a better points-per-game ratio than Dureau (1.35) this season. The product of White City, Sask. scored three or more points nine times this season, including a pair of four-point contests against Prince George.
  • Taylor Gauthier: One of the bigger storylines is Gauthier, in his playoff debut, facing-off against his former team. With Portland, Gauthier has posted a 24-4-0-0 record and four shutouts, and over the course of the season the Calgarian registered a league-best .928 save percentage as part of his 31-9-0-0 overall record.
  • Clay Hanus: The elder statesman on the Winterhawks blue line, Hanus is a key piece for Portland. The 20-year-old defenceman finished third in team scoring in the regular season with 74 points in 68 games. His 74 points was second-best among defencemen in the WHL. Hanus logs a lot of important minutes and is a dynamic presence at both ends of the ice. He starts their attack more often than not. Prince George needs to find a way to slow him down.
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