James Doyle

Hunting for more, Prince George Cougars Mid-Season Review

The Prince George Cougars 2018-19 season until Christmas break has seen its fair share of ups and downs fans might say.

The Cougars season so far hasn’t been pretty, but even in bleak times mid-season, there are some bright spots for some future players who could be future NHL’ers.

Although this season wasn’t supposed to be a banner raising domination like in 2016-17, the team was poised to compete with what seemed to be a very young and promising lineup after the pre-season which saw them at 3-1-1-0.

After 39 games, the Cats have played themselves into a 14-22-1-2 record, and sit in last place in the BC Division.

Last season the Cougars compare posting a 24-38-5-5 record over 72 games, and believe it or not, the club is on pace to put up 51 points, which is actually 7 less points than last season. You have to take into account though how they will lose the chance to pickup eight points as the season length was reduced by four games.

The Cougars issues have varied throughout the campaign, from inconsistent goaltending, to bad team offense. It seems like the Cougars have had struggles in every category except for injuries thus far.

The Cougars roster hasn’t changed too much since last season, other than losing some big offensive pieces in Brogan O’Brien, and Jared Bethune. Which at the time didn’t seem like irreplaceable players, but if this season has shown something, it has shown loud and clear the Cougars lack of offensive weapons.

Cougars Scoring Leaders (2017-18)
Player GP G A Pts PIM +/-
*Jared Bethune 71 24 48 64 64 -14
Josh Maser 71 28 21 49 74 -20
Joel Lakusta 70 9 33 42 62 -11
*Brogan O’Brien 52 17 24 41 51 -18
*Dennis Cholowski 37 13 26 39 14 9

*indicates player is no longer with Prince George in 2018-19

The Cougars scored 217 goals collectively in 2017-18, this season the Cougars are not on pace to get anywhere near this number. As of January 10th, 2019, the team has only scored 84 goals, which is the lowest in the entire Western Hockey League

Taylor Gauthier, Prince George Cougars- March 2018 (Doug Westcott)

The bright spot for the Cougars comes in goal. The tandem of Taylor Gauthier and Isaiah DiLaura have put in work in the crease this season. Gauthier was most recently invited to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game and continues to show spurts of incredible play. Gauthier boasts an .897 SV% and a 3.29 GAA, DiLaura also up there with a .894 SV% and a matching 3.29 GAA. The best part might be that the Cougars actually sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to goals allowed as a team. Although Gauthier shows some stats that aren’t jaw dropping, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt when you look at some of the defense being played in front of him. Most of Gauthier’s goals are on odd man rushes, or simply where he’s been hung out to dry. That being said, some games are better than others for the young ‘tender, inconsistency seems to be a prevalent issue, and the inability to have quality outings on back to back nights is what is keeping him from elite status to this point. The potential to fix this is there, Cougars fans hope with time he can be the franchise goalie everyone was waiting for.

The Cougars defensive lineup saw the loss of Cam MacPhee just two games into the season, which left the club with a very young defensive core, except for a few shutdown guys.

Cole Moberg roofs the puck over Reece Klassen, October 13, 2018 (pgcougars.com)

If you go up and down the Cougars roster, one standout player is Cole Moberg. The 17-year-old d-man is midway through his second full season, and draft eligible come June. Moberg has shown lots of offensive creativity, something he was drafted for, and showed back in Major Midget with the Vancouver Northwest Giants (BCMML) in 2015-16 where he nailed down 48 points in 57 games played. Fast forward to this season, Moberg has had a couple highlight reel plays, notably in Lethbridge when he went through five Hurricanes players to beat the goalie with a nasty backhand that was featured on the WHL Plays of the Week. He’s ranked as #92 by Future Considerations on eliteprospects.com, and also ranked by the NHL Central Scouting. Don’t be shocked to see Moberg drafted in 2019.

The Cougars were 2nd place in the BC Division on Sunday November 4th, since then they’ve played themselves into a 5-14-0-0 streak throwing them into the basement in the West.

With a relatively unforgiving schedule coming up, this team is only four points out of a playoff spot and barring any significant injuries, they could find themselves in a Wild Card spot at the end of the season. Unlike before, the Cougars have no safety net now, if they have another dismal month along the likes of December 2018 where they went 2-8-0-0, the Cougars will have their chance at the playoffs for the first time in two seasons taken away.

Brendan Boyle looks for a goal, January 9th, 2019- (pgcougars.com)

The Cougars have since rebounded with a handful of quality games to start off 2019. The Cougars finished off a long stretch of road games with a 4-2 loss in Spokane on Wednesday January 9th, although all three games in the New Year have been nothing but competitive.

The Cougars are highly unlikely to make a run into the playoffs this season, the main focus of head coach Richard Matvichuk is staying competitive and not taking games off.

The Cats have yet to do that in 2019, playing themselves into a 2-1 shootout win in Kelowna on January 4th, and a 1-0 shutout victory by Taylor Gauthier on January 8th.

Don’t rule out playoffs in Prince George as of January 10th, the Cougars only sit two points back of the Kamloops Blazers for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

With a young group like this, on thing is for sure, these kids are always “hunting for more.”

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