What a difference a weekend can make.
All is well in Cougar Town following two dominant home ice victories Friday and Saturday against the Kamloops Blazers and as we near the end of a thrilling 2016-17 regular season, there is still so much to be decided. Tonight in Portland the Prince George Cougars will look to secure their third straight victory and should they emerge victorious, it would mean that they would head into the weekend still alone in first place in the B.C. Division. The Kelowna Rockets have now moved within two points of the Cougars for first place and each team has five games remaining. Kelowna has four at home and one on the road while the Cougars have four on the road and one at home. It’s gut check time for the Cougars starting tonight at the Moda Center in Portland.
Home Record: 20-10-1-1
Last Game: A 3-0 shutout victory over Vancouver on Saturday night at home
Goals For/Goals Against: 250 GF/232 GA
Power Play: 25.5% (4th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.3% (7th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Cody Glass (63GP – 27G – 58A – 85PTS), Skyler McKenzie (65GP – 37GP – 38A – 75PTS), Keegan Iverson (48GP – 21G – 28A – 59PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Cody Glass: With 85 points in 63 games, the sophomore forward sits tops among all Portland players in scoring. He’s got points in each of his past three games and currently sits 10th in league scoring. He’s got one goal in two games this season against the Cougars.
Ryan Hughes: Fellow sophomore Ryan Hughes leads all Portland forwards with three goals and one assist against the Cougars. With 27 goals and 28 assists for 55 points in 63 games, the second year forward has provided Mike Johnston with some dependable offense, and he should only continue to get better with more experience and time.
WHO’S ON D:
Caleb Jones: The Edmonton Oilers prospect has seven goals and 45 assists for 52 points in 56 games this season. Jones sits 10th in league scoring among defencemen and has 23 power play points to his credit as well. He’ll log big minutes in all situations tonight for Portland at home.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Cole Kehler: The 19-year-old has logged 51 games this season for the Winterhawks and has posted a record of 27-17-0-3 along with a goals-against-average of 3.23 and a save percentage of .908. In two games against the Cougars, Kehler is 1-0-0-1 with a ..916 save percentage and a 3.84 goals-against-average.
Urgency: Mathematically the Winterhawks are still able to catch the Tri-City Americans for third place in the US Division and as well they could (at the very least) clinch a wild-card play-in game with the Spokane Chiefs with a victory tonight. The Winterhawks have won three straight and have enough skill and offense to really make a team pay if they don’t come ready to play. Tonight the Winterhawks will look to either match or surpass the Cougars level of urgency when they take the ice tonight.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Road Record: 20-10-2-0
Last Game: A 6-1 victory over the Kamloops Blazers at home on Saturday
Goals For/Goals Against: 235 GF/189 GA
Power Play: 16.5% (20th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 83.1% (3rd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Jansen Harkins (59GP – 20G – 50A – 70PTS), Nikita Popugaev (66GP – 28G – 37A – 65PTS), Radovan Bondra (57GP – 31G – 27A – 58PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jansen Harkins: The Prince George Cougars all-time leading scorer has posted two goals and eight assists over the span of his last five games. The Winnipeg Jets prospect leads the Cougars with 70 points on the season and has two goals and two assists for four points in three games against the Winterhawks so far in 2016-17.
Nikita Popugaev: The draft eligible Russian has now put up at least a point in five of his past six games and is coming off a weekend where he scored in back-to-back games in the victories against Kamloops. For the season Popugaev now has 28 goals and is looking to become the third member of the Cougars to join the 30 goal club. Based on how he’s been going lately it could very well be tonight!
WHO’S ON D:
Brendan Guhle: There is no denying the importance of Brendan Guhle to the Cougars blueline, and that showed last weekend as the Cougars outscored the Blazers 14-5. Guhle in the first game had a goal and three assists, and though he didn’t factor into the scoring on Saturday he was just as effective making strong plays defensively and allowing the Cougars to calm things down on the back-end. While the Cougars were able to get 107 shots on goal, they held Kamloops to just 54. Guhle’s return to action played a big part on that.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Ty Edmonds: The 20-year-old is coming off back-to-back victories from the weekend and is now just one win shy of 30 for his career. He’s only seen Portland once this season and was victorious allowing three goals against on January 17th. He comes into action tonight with the third best goals-against-average in the WHL at 2.53.
Continuation: The Cougars have every right to feel confident and encouraged by the type of weekend they had at home, and now it’s up to them to make sure they bring that same fire and intensity into tonight’s game in Portland. The Cougars are two points up on Kelowna, and on paper they have the tougher schedule down the stretch. It will be very important for the Cougars to play to their strengths and follow the same model of success that led to their back-to-back victories from the weekend.