Cougars T-Birds Preview.
Three games, three nights, in three different cities and in two different countries. That is what the Prince George Cougars have been up against this weekend, and tonight in Seattle they will wrap up a busy weekend against a red-hot Thunderbirds team. It’s been a bit of a confusing weekend for the Cougars who played well Friday in Kelowna and lost, and earned a point in Kamloops last night in a game where they were largely outplayed. Tonight they’ll look to get back into the win column and put some more pressure on the Tri-City Americans who have the night off tonight.
Steve Konowalchuk’s Seattle Thunderbirds are on a roll. They are 8-2 in their past 10 games, and their 37-17-2-3 record currently has them ranked fourth in the 10 team Western Conference. The Thunderbirds are a veteran-laden team that have a ton of size and skill and they are a very difficult team to beat in their own building.
WHO’S UP FRONT:
When it comes to the Seattle Thunderbirds attack, they are led up front by their two talented European forwards: Alex Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs. Delnov leads all Seattle forwards with 52 points, while Lipsbergs leads the team with 31 goals. Delnov is some quick feet and is a very good puck-handler while Lipsbergs has a deceptive shot and a nose for the net.
WHO’S ON D:
Only the top scoring defenceman in the entire WHL, Shea Theodore. With 65 points in 57 games, the Anaheim Ducks first rounder leads his team in points, and has put together a hell of a season in Seattle. Theodore could very well be the best skating defenceman in the entire WHL, and he can single-handedly change the face of a game when he gets the puck on his stick.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Since joining the Seattle Thunderbirds in a deadline deal with the Kamloops Blazers, 19-year-old netminder Taran Kozun has been nothing short of amazing for Steve Konowalchuk’s team. In 13 games, Kozun is 11-2 with a 1.66 goals-against-average and a staggering save percentage of .948. That said, he has played in two straight games this weekend, which could open the door for Danny Mumaugh to face the Cougars tonight.
T-Birds GM Russ Farwell deserves a ton of credit for some savvy moves that he has made during this season. Earlier this season, Farwell pulled the trigger on a deal that landed him veteran forwards Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski from Lethbridge. He then acquired Taran Kozun and Russ Maxwell at the trade deadline, and both have made a tremendous impact. When healthy the Thunderbirds are a team with a ton of size, experience and depth. A shift off against the Thunderbirds could make things very difficult for Prince George tonight.
After winning six straight games at the end of January and into early February, Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars have dropped four straight games. Despite the OT loss last night in Kamloops, the Cougars are now within four points of the Tri-City Americans, but are entering a stretch where they will be playing two games without Tri-City playing any. That means that by the time the Cougars are done with Seattle tonight and Portland on Tuesday, Tri-City will have four games in hand. Points are a necessity for the Cougars tonight, and hopefully they are up for the challenge playing their third game in three nights.
WHO’S UP FRONT:
With a goal and two assists last night, Todd Fiddler has reached the 80 point mark for the first time in his WHL. The reigning WHL Player of the Month is currently in the midst of an 11 game point streak, and now sits sixth overall in league scoring. Fiddler has the skill-set that is hard to match in this league, and if the Cougars are going to find success tonight they are going to need their top scorer to dig deep and supply some offense yet again.
WHO’S ON D:
Given an apparent injury to Sam Ruopp last night in Kamloops, Raymond Grewal stepped up in a big way, and took advantage of the added minutes and responsibility. Provided Ruopp can’t go again tonight, look for Grewal to play some more minutes again, and look for him to provide a steady compliment to Marc McNulty. All of the Cougars defenders are going to have their hands full tonight, and hopefully they are up to the task of battling hard against a large group of Seattle forwards.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Both Ty Edmonds and Adam Beukeboom have played well enough in spurts this weekend to give their team a chance to win, but neither goaltender has been able to ‘steal’ a victory for their team. Tonight’s starter is another coin-flip for the Cougars coaching staff. Tonight, perhaps more than any other night this season, the Cougars need their goaltender to rise up and deliver a first-star type of performance here tonight.
For whatever reason, the Cougars have had a lot of recent success at the Showare Center in Seattle. Dating back to the 2011-2012 season, the Cougars are 4-1 in Seattle, and have managed to eek out victories in close games. Hopefully that is a trend that can continue tonight for a desperate Cougars team that will be looking to put some more pressure on the Tri-City Americans with a successful outing here tonight.
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