Cougars Ice Preview.
Tonight at the CN Centre, the Prince George Cougars will take to their home ice for the final time in 2013. For the first and only time this season, the Prince George Cougars will clash with the Kootenay Ice, in a game that features a few interesting storylines. Most importantly the Cougars are looking to build off a positive weekend against Tri-City, and will look to gain a little ‘traction’ before heading on the road for their next six games.
Ryan McGill’s Kootenay Ice come into tonight having dropped four of their past five games overall. That said, Kootenay sits in a virtual tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 16-15-2-0. Last season the Ice were 0-1 against the Cougars dropping a 5-4 game to them on October 10th, 2012 in Cranbrook.
Who’s Up Front:
When the Kamloops Blazers sent Tim Bozon and Landon Cross to the Kootenay Ice in a trade earlier this season, perhaps no team in the WHL was happier than the Prince George Cougars. Over the past two seasons, Bozon has feasted on the Cougars scoring 11 goals and 21 points in 21 career games. Now, rather than seeing Bozon seven more times this season, the Cougars only have to worry about tonight (barring another trade). You know that the Montreal Canadiens prospect will be front and centre in the Kootenay Ice lineup. Since joining the Kootenay Ice, Bozon has six goals and 19 points in 20 games.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Kootenay Ice are led by 20-year-old stalwart Jagger Dirk. The product of Penticton, BC has recorded 20-or-more points in each of his past four seasons, and so far this season he leads all Kootenay defenders with three goals and 21 points in 33 games.
Who’s in Goal:
Between the pipes the Kootenay Ice have two very capable and two very similar options. New York Rangers prospect Mackenzie Skapski is the veteran option and so far this season he is 7-8-2-0 with a goals-against-average of 3.03 and a save percentage of .898. The younger option is 18-year-old Wyatt Hoflin who is 8-7 with a .909 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 2.73.
Notably absent from the Kootenay Ice lineup tonight will be their top scorer Sam Reinhart. A top prospect for the 2014 draft, Reinhart is headed East for Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp, and did not make the trip with the team to Prince George. With 50 points in 33 games, Reinhart leaves a major gap in the Kootenay attack, but don’t think for one minute that the Cougars can/will take Kootenay lightly. Tim Bozon, Jaedon Descheneau and Luke Philp are all capable offensive options that will difficult to play against and if the Cougars aren’t careful it could be a long and difficult night.
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars come into tonight’s game with a record of 12-16-2-3. Their 29 points has them ranked ninth in the Western Conference, six points back of the eighth placed Vancouver Giants and eighth points back of the Tri-City Americans (both of whom are also in action tonight). The Cougars are coming off a three point weekend against Tri-City, and are hoping to win two straight games for the first time since early October.
Who’s Up Front:
Saturday night against Tri-City the Prince George Cougars received an enormous boost with the return of captain Troy Bourke to the lineup. Fresh off a three game suspension, Bourke returned and made a strong impact, recording two assists. Bourke’s importance simply cannot be overlooked as he kills penalties, provides offense and strong leadership for his team. Hopefully Bourke can follow up Saturday’s game with another strong outing.
Who’s on D:
18-year-old defenceman Marc McNulty is playing some of his best hockey right now for the Prince George Cougars. Not only has McNulty found regular ways to contribute offensively in recent games, but he has made some definite strides in his own end. McNulty leads all Cougars with a +4 rating, and is tops among Cougars defenders with 15 points, which ties his previous season high that he set last season. Hopefully tonight can be another strong two-way game for McNulty and his fellow D-men.
Who’s in Goal:
After a difficult month of November, rookie Ty Edmonds is starting show definite signs of improvement. Edmonds has earned at least one point in three of his past four starts, and was in top form on Saturday night against Tri-City. Edmonds didn’t have to make too many Grade A saves, but he did make one breakway save off of Lukas Nickles in the final minutes to keep his team on top by a 3-2 score. Like the rest of the team, it will be important for Edmonds to try and build off of last Saturday’s success and gain some ‘traction’ as the team forges ahead.
For the first time in over two weeks the Prince George Cougars will be able to dress a full lineup tonight against the Kootenay Ice. Zach Pochiro and Brad Morrison have both been cleared to play up front, which means that the Cougars even have enough bodies to have one healthy scratch. The re-addition of Pochiro and Morrison give the coaching staff some more offensive options, but it also allows the coaching staff to be very selective with who plays and for how long. It will be important for the Cougars to maintain their focus and intensity tonight as they cannot afford a sub-par effort. A win and a little bit of help tonight could put the Cougars right back into the mix before their three-game in three-night road trip that’s coming up.
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