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GAME PREVIEW: GM 26 Cougars vs. Portland Winterhawks

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LAST GAME: The Cougars (6-17-0-2) lost 3-2 in Kelowna to the Rockets on Saturday night. Josh Maser (power-play) and Connor Bowie scored second period goals and Taylor Gauthier stopped 23 of 26 shots in the setback. Prince George trailed 1-0 after the first period and 2-0 early in the second, before tying the game with two quick goals from Bowie and Maser at the tail end of the middle frame. The Rockets broke the 2-2 tie midway through the third period with their second power-play goal of the game. The loss Saturday snapped the Cougars’ two-game win streak and dropped their record to 1-4-0-0 against the Rockets.

The Winterhawks split their weekend doubleheader in Kamloops. Portland won 2-1 in the shootout on Friday but fell 4-1 to the Blazers on Saturday. The loss Saturday snapped their five-game win streak which dated back to November 17th. The Winterhawks are off to another solid start, sitting second in the U.S. Division with 16 wins and 35 points through 25 games. Portland comes into the week tied with Everett atop of the U.S. Division but do have one less regulation win than the Silvertips.

TONIGHT: A scheduling quirk sees these two teams play four-straight this week, as tonight they kick-off a best-of-four series that runs over the next six days. Two games in Prince George tonight and tomorrow then both teams travel south to Portland for a weekend double on Saturday and Sunday. The Cougars lost three of four to Portland a season ago, winning at home 5-2 on March 9th. So far this season the Cougars are 2-4-0-0 against the U.S. Division. The Winterhawks are 5-3-0-0 against B.C. Division opponents. The Cougars have split their last three home games against the Winterhawks (3-3-0-0).

TALE OF THE TAPE

Prince George Cougars (6-17-0-2 14 PTS) Portland Winterhawks (16-6-1-2 35 PTS)
5th B.C. Division | 10th Western Conference 2nd U.S. Division | 2nd Western Conference
Home: 4-9-0-1 | Away: 2-8-0-1 Home: 10-1-1-0 | Away: 6-5-0-2
Power-Play 14/98 14.3% (20th) Power-Play 22/95 23.2% (4th)
Penalty-Kill 22/88 75% (20th) Penalty-Kill 14/108 87% (2nd)
Last 10 2-7-0-1 Streak 0-1-0-0 Last 10 6-2-1-1 Streak 0-1-0-0

 LINE UP: Not much, if anything changing for the Cougars tonight as they should be dressing the same line up as they did against the Rockets Saturday. Taylor Gauthier is making his fifth consecutive start and has been very dependable between the pipes. Gauthier hasn’t had an “off night” since the calendar flipped over to November. Forward Blake Eastman is still recovering from a upper-body injury and won’t dress for the second-straight game.

Portland appears to be starting 19-year-old Joel Hofer based on their game day skate Tuesday morning. The St. Louis Blues’ prospect has been lights out this season. Hofer is first in the WHL in goals-against average (1.92) and among starters his save percentage (.935) is second only to Everett’s Dustin Wolf. No surprise Monday he was one of four goaltenders invited to Hockey Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp. Former Cougar Isaiah DiLaura hasn’t played since November 16th but you can bet he gets a look tomorrow in his old stomping grounds. The Winterhawks are missing defenceman Jonas Brøndberg, who is at Denmark’s World Junior Selection Camp. Forward Jaydon Dureau is the only Winterhawks’ player listed with an injury, as he is day-to-day with an upper-body aliment according to the WHL Weekly Report.

COUGARS’ FOCUS: Hopefully Prince George learned from their mistakes Saturday. They took one too many penalties against the Rockets and Kelowna scored the game-winner with the man-advantage. The Cougars are a pretty disciplined group. The amount of penalties isn’t a concern, it’s the type of penalties they’re taking and when they’re occurring. Prince George can’t afford to give away cheap penalties, stick infractions, to the Winterhawks. Portland’s power-play is ranked fourth in the dub, operating just over 23 percent. Prince George needs to play hard, yet disciplined and play as much as possible at even strength. Tyson Upper said as much in the video above.

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