Cougars TBirds Preview.
Tonight in Prince George, the Cougars are looking for their third straight victory in 2014 when they welcome Steve Konowalchuk's Seattle Thunderbirds to town for the first time this season. Both teams are battered with injuries, but both are very capable, and dare I say desperate, which should lead to some intriguing matchups this week.
Steve Konowalchuk's Seattle Thunderbirds come into tonight's game with an overall record of 22-14-2-3 which puts them in a tie with the Vancouver Giants for sixth in the Western Conference. The T-Birds have struggled as of late though having lost five straight. This weekend in Alberta they were outscored 22-3 by the Rebels, Oil Kings and Hitmen. So far this season the T-Birds are 0-0-0-1 against Prince George.
WHO'S UP FRONT:
Though he did not suit up in Sunday's game in Calgary because of injury, 19-year-old forward Branden Troock leads all Seattle forwards with 44 points through 39 games this season. The Dallas Stars prospect is 6'4", skates very well, and has a pro-calibre shot. His status for tonight's game is uncertain, but a healthy Branden Troock gives Seattle a huge boost in tonight's game.
WHO'S ON D:
Anaheim Ducks first rounder Shea Theodore is one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire WHL. There might not be another defenceman in the WHL that has his speed and his smarts. His 45 points are tops on the team and if he's given enough room and space he will make you pay for it. Keeping Theodore in check will be a top priority for the Cougars this week.
WHO'S IN GOAL:
The goaltending tandem of Danny Mumaugh and Justin Myles has been solid for a majority of the season, but lately has struggled. The 17-year-old Mumaugh has dressed in 26 games and has posted a record of 11-8-2-3 with a goals-against-average of 3.49 and a save percentage of .902. Justin Myles is 18-years-old and is 11-6 through 21 appearances with a 3.66 goals-against-average and an .889 save percentage.
The Seattle Thunderbirds boast two of the top European forwards in the WHL in Alex Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs who have combined for 67 points this season. Lipsbergs is the sniper with 22 goals while Delnov has 21 assists, and has show that he's more than capable of scoring big goals as well. These two are worth the price of admission when they are on their game, and tonight the Cougars will need to keep a close eye on both Lipsbergs and Delnov.
For the first time since early October, the Cougars havw won two straight games, and tonight they'll take aim at their third consecutive victory for the first time this season. At 16-21-2-3, the Cougars are three points back of the eighth placed Tri-City Americans but have played in one more game. Tonight the Ams are in Kamloops facing a struggling Blazers team, so it makes tonight's matchup for the Cougars all the more important.
WHO'S UP FRONT:
After an eight point weekend against Kamloops, what does 20-year-old forward Todd Fiddler have up his sleeve for an encore? The 20-year-old product of Meadow Lake, SK now leads the Cougars in goals (19) and points (45) and continues to provide the Cougars with consistent and timely offense. Hopefully he's got a few more goals up his sleeve for these two games against a Thunderbirds team that Fiddler should be familiar with, having spent parts of two seasons with the Spokane Chiefs.
WHO'S ON D:
Saturday night was a strong night for 18-year-old defenceman Marc McNulty who posted one goal and one assist in Saturday's 3-1 win over Kamloops. The 6'6" Detroit Red Wings prospect is playing some of his best hockey ever for the Cougars, and tonight he'll be tasked with shutting down a number of skilled and aggressive Seattle forwards all while trying to provide an offensive spark from the back end.
WHO'S IN GOAL:
Tonight will mark the 15th straight start in goal for Cougars rookie Ty Edmonds who is coming off back-to-back victories from the weekend. Saturday night was a great one for Edmonds who stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced, and did what he had to do to keep his team ahead in the game. Hopefully tonight Edmonds can have some similar success against a Seattle team that can come at teams in waves. Edmonds will also have to be aware of the fact that the T-Birds have many big forwards who will try and make his life difficult in his goal crease.
Traction (or a lack thereof) has been a common theme this season for the Cougars this season, and now tonight thye have a real opportunity to maintain their recent positive momentum. The T-Birds have lost five straight, and might be a vulnerable group. Can the Cougars take advantage? Or will Seattle be able to snap their skid this week in Prince George. The Cougars need to be ready to battle in all three areas of the ice, and as Mark Holick likes to say, "The hardest working team will usually win." Will it be the Cougars tonight?
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