Cougars Blazers Preview.
The Prince George Cougars will wrap up their 2013 preseason schedule tonight at home. Standing in their way is arguably their biggest rival in the WHL, the Kamloops Blazers. These two teams have a long-standing rivalry, and there will be no shortage of motivation on either end.
Dave Hunchak’s Kamloops Blazers head into tonight’s game with a 1-3 preseason record. Kamloops has been outscored by a 16-8 margin in the preseason, and will be looking to halt the Cougars preseason momentum. The Blazers are one season removed from a birth in the WHL Western Conference Finals, and even though there has been some large roster turnover, they are a team that can never be counted out of any situation.
Who’s Up Front:
The Kamloops Blazers forward corps is going to look a lot different this season. Gone are the familiar faces of Dylan Willick, and Brendan Ranford, and most likely the Blazers will be without Colin Smith and JC Lipon this season too. That means that more is going to be expected from the younger Blazer forwards, and surely they’re up for the challenge. Leading the way so far is 17-year-old Mitch Friesen. Through four games, Friesen has three assists which is tops for the team in points. Friesen dressed in 46 games last year for Kamloops and is still searching for his first regular season WHL goal. Maybe his successful preseason is a sign of things to come down the road.
Who’s on D:
Heading into the 2013-2014 season more is going to be expected of 17-year-old defenceman Jordan Thomson. Selected fourth overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Thompson has all of the tools to be an elite defenceman in this league. Last season in 47 games, Thomson scored twice and added 12 assists. This could very well be the year when Thomson establishes himself as one of the top-tiered defenceman in the WHL. NHL scouts will be following Thomson very closely this season, and fans will hopefully get a good look at Thomson tonight in Prince George.
Who’s in Goal:
Earlier this week, Kamloops GM Craig Bonner acquired 19-year-old goaltender Bolton Pouliot from the Red Deer Rebels. As it stands right now, Taran Kozun and Bolton Pouliot are going to be the duo protecting the Kamloops net. Last season Pouliot dressed in 20 games with Red Deer and posted a 3.60 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Taran Kozun 0-2 on the preseason so far with a 4.46 goals against average and an .866 save percentage.
At this time one year ago, Kamloops was on the verge of going 5-0 in the preseason. Today, the Cougars are in that exact same scenario. This will be the final game for the remaining Kamloops Blazers players to make a positive impression. On the road they’ll need to do the little things correctly. They’ll need to stay disciplined, keep things simple defensively, and try to strike as early as possible offensively. The Blazers would love nothing more than to halt the Cougars undefeated streak, and you know they’ll be excited for the challenge ahead.
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars head into tonight’s game with a 4-0 record and aside from Everett they are the only remaining undefeated team in the Western Conference. They are coming off a 2-1 victory over Edmonton on Saturday in Prince George.
Who’s Up Front:
The one constant through four preseason games for the Prince George Cougars has been Jansen Harkins. The 16-year-old from North Vancouver was tied for the league lead in preseason points heading into this weekend, but Manraj Hayer has since recorded two more points, leaving the ball in Harkins court as we forge ahead. All personal accolades aside, Harkins has made a heck of an impression on his teammates and fans in Prince George, and you know that he’ll be looking to extend his point streak tonight at home.
Who’s on D:
Wednesday afternoon, the Prince George Cougars acquired 20-year-old defenceman Peter Kosterman from the Calgary Hitmen. Kosterman adds some experience to a rather young Cougars blueline. He’s played 234 career games in the WHL and will no doubt be counted upon in all situations for the Cougars this season. Hopefully Kosterman will get adjusted to his new teammates quickly, and all signs are pointing to an easy, seamless transition so far.
Who’s in Goal:
Brett Zarowny and Ty Edmonds have both played exceptionally well for the Cougars so far in the preseason. Edmonds was rock solid in last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Edmonton and Zarowny has only surrendered two goals during the entire preseason. Both goalies are going to be competing for playing time against each other, and both have shown so far that they are more than capable of performing well. Whoever gets the nod tonight will be in tough against a hungry Blazers team, but that will be par for the course this season.
Everybody has a different opinion about how important preseason results are. Many don’t put any merit into wins and losses whatsoever, and are simply looking at the execution, more so than the end result. Regardless of the fact that preseason victories count for nothing, the Cougars have a great opportunity here to accomplish something rare. There is absolutely nothing negative that can come from a 5-0 preseason start, and at the end of the day they’re trying to establish a winning attitude and a winning culture. It will be important for the Cougars to stay the course tonight, and to try and fine-tune their systems before the games start to count for real. The Cougars will need to be disciplined, and they’ll need to be ready to work harder than their opponent. If they do that, they could very well be leaving the CN Centre tonight with a 5-0 preseason record.
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