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Cougars and Americans to meet in first round of 2023 WHL playoffs

They’ve had many encounters over the past three decades during WHL regular seasons, but the 2023 WHL playoffs will mark the first-ever post-season matchup between the Prince George Cougars and Tri-City Americans.

The first-round series was confirmed Sunday after Tri-City defeated the Vancouver Giants 5-2 and the Everett Silvertips were bested 3-2 by the Spokane Chiefs. Prince George had previously been confirmed as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, while Sunday’s results locked Tri-City in as the fifth seed.

The Cougars will enjoy home-ice advantage in the WHL Playoffs for the first time since 2017. Prince George sits second in the B.C. Division with a 35-24-6-1 record with two regular season games left to play.

The Americans, meanwhile, are making their return to the WHL Playoffs for the first time in four years. Tri-City will finish third in the U.S. Division, currently sitting with a 32-26-5-3 record as they enter the final week of the 2022-23 Regular Season.

The two sides met four times over the course of the 2022-23 regular season with the Americans winning three of the match-ups including both on home ice in early December. One of the four contests, a 4-3 Tri-City win December 9, was decided in overtime with forward Tyson Greenway scoring the game-winner 21 seconds into the extra frame.

The lone Prince George victory in the season series came back on opening night September 23, a game the Cougars won 5-1 thanks in part to two second-period goals 19 seconds apart from now-departed forward Carter MacAdams.

2023 NHL Draft prospect Koehn Ziemmer led the Cougars in scoring during the season series, tallying five times and totalling six points.

Veteran forwards Ethan Ernst (2G-3A) and Jake Sloan (1G-4A) led the way for Tri-City over the four-game season series, with the Americans holding a 26.3 power-play percentage against Prince George.

New Jersey Devils prospect Tyler Brennan, who leads the Cougars with 20 victories this season, did not see a minute of action between the pipes against Tri-City this season. Instead, it was Vancouver Canucks draftee Ty Young who posted a 0-1-1-0 record in his two starts, while 16-year-old prospect Madden Mulawka earned the Prince George victory as part of his two outings against the Americans in September.

For Tri-City, Czech import and 2023 NHL Draft prospect Tomas Suchanek played all four games of the season series in goal, recording a 3-1-0-0 record to go along with a 3.50 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

Prior to beginning their 2023 WHL Playoffs journey, the Cougars will wrap up the 2022-23 WHL Regular Season with a home-and-home series versus the Kamloops Blazers. The two-game set begins Friday, March 24 in Kamloops (7:00 p.m. PT, Sandman Centre) before a regular season finale in Prince George Saturday, March 25 (6:00 p.m. PT, CN Centre).

The Americans will conclude their regular season campaign with two matchups versus the Spokane Chiefs. The two sides will meet Friday, March 24 in Kennewick (7:05 p.m. PT, Toyota Center) before wrapping up the regular season Saturday, March 25 in Spokane (7:05 p.m. PT, Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena).

Game 1 of the first-round series between the Prince George Cougars and Tri-City Americans is scheduled for Friday, March 31 at 7 p.m. PT in Prince George (CN Centre). The series will head south of the border for Game 3 on Tuesday, April 4 at 7:05 p.m. PT (Toyota Center).

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