Cougars Get Set For A Tilt With the T-Birds.
Tonight in Kent, WA the Prince George Cougars continue their four game road swing. For the first time this season, the Cougars will go toe-to-toe with the Seattle Thunderbirds. There is no shortage of storylines heading into tonight's matchup and in recent seasons whenever these two teams get together it's usually been a close, hard fought game.
Steve Konowalchuk's Seattle Thunderbirds are off to a terrific start in 2013-2014. The T-Birds are 8-3 and are only two points back of first place in the U.S. Division. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games but are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Kamloops Blazers from Wednesday night.
Who's Up Front:
Offensively the Thunderbirds are a team that can come at you in waves, and depth-wise it's hard to find too many teams with a comparable mix of skill, size and speed. Once again two of their primary leaders are imports Alexander Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs. The two Euros have combined for 15 goals and 23 points through the first 11 games.
Who's on D:
Defensively the T-Birds are once again being led by Anaheim Ducks prospect Shea Theodore. Theodore is explosive and can beat you with his shot, his vision, his speed and his smarts. Theodore has 11 points in nine games so far this season.
Who's in Goal:
So far, so good this season for the goaltending tandem of Danny Mumaugh and Justin Myles. Both goaltenders have won four times and both have a save percentage above .900. Myles is 18 and has more experience, but Mumaugh has slightly better stats. Might as well flip a coin, because either goaltender gives the T-Birds a great chance to win.
One of the glaring storylines heading into tonight's game will be the matchup between Mathew Barzal and Jansen Harkins. Barzal is off to a red-hot start to his WHL career, leading the team in points with 16. You know that Barzal will be a focal point for Seattle's offense, and the Cougars are going to need to find a way to keep him contained as best as possible tonight.
Mark Holick's Prince George Cougars come into tonight's game looking for their first win on their current four game road trip. So far the Cougars are 0-2 after back-to-back losses in Victoria. This season has been filled with several peaks and valleys in the early stages, and the Cougars have shown that they can be both brilliant and bad in a matter of moments.
Who's Up Front:
Chase Witala has had a great month so far. The 18-year-old Prince George product has produced four goals and eight points over his last five games, and after a rather slow start offensively Witala is starting to pick things up. Witala started the Cougars comeback bid on Wednesday night, and also figured prominently on both Troy Bourke and Marc McNulty's goals. A repeat performance from Chase Witala would be a big boost for the Cougars as they look for the W.
Who's on D:
Rookie d-man Sam Ruopp returned from injury on Wednesday and recorded his first career WHL point on Jansen Harkins third period goal. Ruopp is the type of player that every coach likes. He's a fast learner, aggressive and does a lot of little things right that often go un-noticed on the stats sheet. Ruopp will never be a high-risk offensive guy, but his defensive contributions have not gone unseen, and hopefully tonight can be another strong outing from the rookie from Zehner, SK.
Who's in Goal:
After Brett Zarowny started both games in Victoria, it's likely Ty Edmonds turn tonight in Kent. Edmonds Is 5-1-1 as a starter this season, and carries a .939 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against-average into tonight's game. Edmonds gives the Cougars a chance to win every time he takes the ice, and tonight should be no exception.
There are a number of X-Factors to consider tonight: How will Zach Pochiro respond to being benched in Victoria? How will Jansen Harkins fare in his first head-to-head matchup with Mathew Barzal? Can the Cougars start strong and force Seattle back on their heels? All will soon be revealed tonight in Washington.
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