The Prince George Cougars wrap up their seven-game stretch of the road tonight against the Everett Silvertips at Xfinity Arena. The Cougars’ current four-game road trip started 10 days ago and they’ve made stops in Vancouver, Kelowna and now Everett.
The Cougars are coming off a 2-1 loss to Portland on Wednesday, as Cody Glass scored the game-winner with 39-seconds left in regulation. Ironically, Everett is coming off a 3-2 win over the Winterhawks last Sunday, where they scored the game-winner, courtesy of Patrick Bajkov, with half a minute left in regulation.
Tonight is the first of four regular season meetings between these two teams and with a weird scheduling quirk, it’s the first of three straight between Prince George and Everett.
Head Coach: Dennis Williams
Home Record: 1-3-1-0
Last Game: 3-2 win at Portland Oct 29th
Goals For/Goals Against: 48/59
Power Play: 19. 3 % (14th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 82.8 % (4th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Patrick Bajkov (8-16-24), Matt Fonteyne (9-10-19), Connor Dewar (9-8-17)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Patrick Bajkov: Everett’s leading scorer from last year is off to another great start, with 24 points in 16 games to lead the Silvertips upfront. The Nanaimo, BC, product leads the Silvertips in assists (16), points (24), game-winning goals (2) and is second in power-play goals (3). Bajkov attended Vegas Golden Knights Training this pas summer and is 14 games away from 300 in his WHL career. The offence runs through Everett’s number eight.
Matt Fonteyne: Like Bajkov, Fonteyne is another 20-year-old at the top of the team scoring lead. Fonteyne, who is in his fifth season with the ‘Tips is second in scoring behind Bajkov with 19 points but has a share of team scoring leading with Connor Dewar, as they both have nine goals. Fonteyne is riding an eight-game point streak coming into tonight’s game against Prince George, and has four goals and 10 points over that span.
WHO’S ON D:
Kevin Davis: Surprise, another 20-yea-old making an impact for the Silvertips. The veteran defenceman from Kamloops, BC, is the top scoring ‘Tips defenceman with 17 points in 15 games and is fifth in the WHL scoring race among defencemen. Last year Davis finished third in team scoring and ninth in the WHL among rear-guards. Davis has seven assists in his last five games and has been held pointless in only three games this year. He’s a guy who can create from the backend and can be a fourth forward at times.
Jake Christiansen: With Noah Juulsen graduated to the professional level within the Montreal Canadiens, there was a void left on the blue-line and Christiansen seems to have adapted nicely. The third-year defenceman will eat minutes on the backend, will likely slot in against the Cougars top forwards and plays top-four minutes for the Everett.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Dustin Wolf: How about this kid? The 16-year-old rookie goalie was named the WHL Goalie of Week after back-t0-back wins against Kamloops and Portland. Wolf became the youngest goalie in Silvertips franchise history to earn a win in the WHL, surpassing, you guessed it, Carer Hart. With Hart sidelined due to Mono since September, it was Dorrin Luding (Prince George native) carrying the load until recently. In his first two WHL starts last weekend, Wolf put together two wins, a 1.50 goals-against average and a sparkling .965 save percentage. Do the ‘Tips ride the hot hand of Wolf tonight against the Cougars?
Who’s in Net: Does Dustin Wolf continue to ride the high of last week and have another brilliant showing, or does he come back down to earth and look, maybe, somewhat human? It’s a lot to ask a 16-year-old to be the guy between the pipes (Yes, I saw Seattle’s playoff run last year), but Wolf has answered the call through one week. Carter Hart is back practicing with the team, and Dorrin Luding has proven to be very capable in standing in for Hart. Wolf is no doubt brimming with confidence, so do the ‘Tips put the 16-year-old back in, or does Hart return tonight?
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Head Coach: Richard Matvichuk
Road Record: 4-3-0-2
Last Game: 2-1 loss at Portland Nov 1st
Goals For/Goals Against: 45/51
Power Play: 14.9% (20th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 86.6% (1st in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Kody McDonald ( 9-7-16), Jared Bethune (4-12-16), Dennis Cholowski (5-9-14)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jackson Leppard: The 17-year-old left-winger is a game-time decision but a body the Cougars can’t wait to get back in the line-up. Leppard has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury but skated yesterday and looks close to returning. Before his injury Leppard was a key piece to the top line with Jared Bethune and Kody McDonald. Leppard has eight points in 14 games and is starting to come into his own this season.
Josh Curtis: Not known for his offence but Curtis was one of the Cougars’ best forwards against Portland. He has elevated his game to another level, especially with the absence of his line-mate Aaron Boyd. Boyd again is a game-time decision tonight but Curtis was great on a line with Brogan O’Brien and Chance Adrian in Portland. Regardless of Boyd’s status, the Cougars are hoping Curtis can continue to turn in that type of performance from Wednesday; he’s a underrated two-way forward.
WHO’S ON D:
The Young Crop: The likes of Jack Sander, Cole Moberg, and even second-year defenceman Ryan Schoettler have seen their ice time and role increase since the Cougars had Josh Anderson go down with an upper-body injury in early October. Factor in another veteran in Shane Collins caught in a numbers game, and it’s a very young blue-line for Prince George, one though that has stood up to the challenge. Just look at the numbers, the Cougars have allowed just eight even strength goals against in their last five games; that’s an average of just 1.6 even strength goals-against per game. This young blue-line has been learning on the fly and doing an admirable job. It’s been a long trip, a grind for some of these new faces that haven’t done anything like this before. Can they hold up for one more game?
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Tavin Grant: Tonight’s
likely starter and that shouldn’t come to anyones surprise. Grant was great, again, against Portland Wednesday, stoping 41 of 43 shots; it took 81 shots for the Winterhawks to finally score on Grant this season. In his last three starts, going back to October 21st in Red Deer, Grant has a .964 save percentage. He did more than enough to help the Cougars get a point Wednesday, despite the heartbreaking result. if he’s like anything he was against Portland, the Cougars are in great shape. Oh, and he has quietly snuck into the top 10 in the WHL in both goals-against average and save percentage amongst goalies with five or more games played.
Energy: Could be in low supply given the toll a 10-day, four-game road trip through two divisions can take on a team, but a win tonight helps inch the Cougars one game closer to the 500 mark and gives them a winning record on this seven-game stretch (2-2-2-0 through six games). With a day between Wednesday and tonight’s games, it should help but the Cougars will need to find that extra gear to finish this trip on a winning note.
-Prince George Cougars