Cougars Set Sights on Weekend Split With Kamloops.
Tonight at the CN Centre the Prince George Cougars and Kamloops Blazers will square off in their second of 10 meetings this season. Last night Kamloops prevailed with a 5-2 victory due in large part to success on special teams. It’s an important ‘response’ game tonight for the Cougars who do not want to open up their home schedule with two losses against a division rival.
Dave Hunchak’s Kamloops Blazers head into tonight’s game with a 1-2 record. All three of their games this season have been 5-2 games. Last night they scored early at the 2:16 mark of the first period and never trailed. They played a simple, aggressive game and will look to repeat that type of performance here tonight.
Who’s Up Front:
Cole Ully was selected 131st overall in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars, and last night he showed why. Ully scored twice, and was a major offensive factor for the visitors. Ully has a quick and deceiving shot and now leads all Kamloops forwards with three goals on the young season.
Who’s on D:
18-year-old defenceman Josh Connolly was terrific in all areas last night for Kamloops. Not only did he contribute a goal and two assists, but he also blocked shots, made smart and simple plays in his own zone, and played with a ton of confidence. With the departure of several veterans, Kamloops will have to lean on the likes of Josh Connolly for more games like last night. If he can continue to produce like that at both ends, Josh Connolly’s stock will continue to rise.
Who’s in Goal:
Taran Kozun was very strong last night for Kamloops stopping 37 of the 39 pucks thrown his way. Kozun was very good laterally and was able to track the puck well through all sorts of deflections and chaos in front of him. It’s a big season for Kozun as he’ll be charged with filling the shoes of Cole Cheveldave. More performances like last night will only help Kozun’s confidence moving forward.
Special teams were a glaring difference in last night’s game, and Kamloops held the advantage in both power play and penalty killing success. Kamloops finished last night’s game two-for-three on the power play and killed off all eight of Prince George’s power play attempts. That type of special teams success will help you win on most night, especially on the road. A similar effort tonight could go a long way in helping Kamloops sweep this weekend series.
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars come into tonight’s game with a 1-3 record. Last night they badly outshot Kamloops by 39-28 margin, but were unable to solve Taran Kozun more than twice. Special teams and a few unlucky bounces ended up costing the Cougars in their home opener. Tonight they’ll look to make amends and split their home opening weekend against the Blazers.
Who’s Up Front:
Through the first four games, 18-year-old forward Jordan Tkatch has very quietly produced three points, and has done so with very little power play time. Tkatch was a second round selection in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft and from day one of training camp this year, he has looked focus and ready to break out. Tkatch is a very versatile player for the Cougars and can kill penalties, win faceoffs and score goals. The Cougars would love for Tkatch to continue his offensive success here tonight.
Who’s on D:
Nobody on the Cougars is hotter than defenceman Marc McNulty. Last night McNulty extended his point-streak to three games when he scored his team’s first goal at home. The Detroit Red Wings prospect has provided some big minutes for the Cougars in the early stages of the season, and tonight look for him to be a factor once again at both ends of the ice.
Who’s in Goal:
Brett Zarowny got the call in goal last night for the Cougars and stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced to earn the loss. All signs point to rookie Ty Edmonds getting the nod tonight. Edmonds is 1-0 on the young season, and will need to be in top form tonight in order to help lead his team into the win column at home. Edmonds is 1-0 lifetime at the CN Centre.
Just as special teams were the difference for Kamloops they were also a difference for Prince George. Both the penalty kill and the power play must be better tonight for the Cougars. Both categories are all about confidence, and right now it appears as if the Cougars are struggling with that. How do you fix it? You go back to basics, and you put yourself in the best position to succeed. Quick passes on the power play, and strong positioning on the penalty kill will be key tonight. If the Cougars can rediscover the same special teams success that they had last Sunday in Kennewick, they’ll give themselves a great chance to win tonight’s game.
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