Gameday Preview: Prince George Cougars @ Seattle Thunderbirds

 

DUBNetwork Game of the Night: Prince George Cougars (16-27-3-4) @ Seattle Thunderbirds (20-24-3-3) 5:05 PM PST

Playing some of their best hockey of the season recently, the Prince George Cougars are doing everything they can to make a run for the playoffs. Tonight they play the team they are chasing, the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Both teams have played 50 games this season, Seattle has a seven-point lead in the standings. Tonight’s game is one of the all-important “four-point” games.

Andrej Kukuca (Photo- Portland Winterhawks/Matthew Wolfe)

To add, Prince George has already won both previous meetings this season. Both of those games were played last weekend in Prince George and helped the Cougars move into a position to chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Neither team is exceptionally gifted on offense, Seattle does have 32 more goals on the season than Prince George, but they have also allowed 30 more goals. Both teams have very good goaltenders at a time when their offense has dried up.

The Thunderbirds offense is led by two-spotter, Andrej Kukuca. He has 19 goals and 27 assists this season. Keltie Jeri-Leon is having himself a career year. The just-turned 20-year-old has 21 goals and 13 assists in 2019-2020. And there is Conner Bruggen-Cate, having a resurgence in his career following a tough 2018-19 season. He now has 12 goals and 18 assists for the Thunderbirds this season.

Prince George has really struggled to put the puck in the net this season and it shows in their point leaders. Josh Maser leads the team with just 31 points (21G, 10A). After him, there are three defensemen with more than 20 points and just two other forwards with 20 or more points this season. Tyson Upper has scored eight times and added 14 assists and Vladislav Mikhalchuk has seven goals and 13 assists albeit in just 28 games this season as he joined the team late and had some visa issues.

Josh Maser (photo-Brett Cullen)

The Cougars defense has three scorers in their top-5 and all of them have more than 24 points on the season. Cole Moberg and Ryan Schoettler both have 27 points, Moberg with eight goals and 19 assists is tied for the team lead in power-play points with 15. Schoettler has three goals and 24 assists and also has 1 power-play points.

Seattle is led on the back end by import defenseman Simon Kubicek. The draft-eligible blueliner has six goals and 17 assists for the blue and green. Four of his six goals come on the man-advantage. 17-year-old Ty Bauer is just one point off his career-best with three goals and 10 assists.

Expect to see the Thunderbirds start Roddy Ross in this important game. He had the night off last night in a 5-2 loss to the Everett Silvertips. Ross has not had as good of a season as last year when he came in in the second half and played to a 16-5-1-2 record. Teams have done their homework on him and caused him a lot more grief. He is 16-17-3-3 this season with a 3.20 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Roddy Ross (Photo-Brian Liesse)

Prince George is likely to counter with Taylor Gauthier. The undrafted nearly 19-year-old has been lights out for the Cougars this season between the pipes. He is 12-20-3-4 but has a fantastic 2.85 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. He has stolen some of the games this season by himself.

Both teams sit in the bottom half of the league on the power play. Prince George is 18th with a 16.6% success rate, Seattle is 21st at 14.3%. The same goes for their penalty kill. Seattle is 17th at 76.7% success, Prince George is 19th at 75.8%.

Seth Jarvis and Taylor Gauthier (Photo- Brett Cullen)

You can catch all the action on WHL Live or you can listen to Cougars play-by-play voice Fraser Rodgers HERE, or Thunderbirds play-by-play voice Thom Beuning HERE.

In other WHL action (all times local):

Moose Jaw Warriors (12-34-2-0) @ Saskatoon Blades (26-20-2-3) 2:00 PM

With last night’s 8-2 victory over the Warriors, the Blades moved to 3-0-1-0 in the season series. The win moved the Blades two points closer to the Brandon Wheat Kings for third in the East Division.

Lethbridge Hurricanes (32-12-2-5) @ Calgary Hitmen (28-17-4-1) 4:00 PM

The Hurricanes and Hitmen are playing their sixth game of the season. Lethbridge has a better record of the two teams at 3-1-1-0. Calgary is 2-2-1-0. Brent Kisio is coming off his franchise leading 189th victory. Lethbridge is 8-2-0-0 in their last 10, Calgary is 6-4-0-0.

Kamloops Blazers (32-15-3-1) @ Vancouver Giants (24-20-3-2) 4:00 PM

The two teams have been headed in opposite directions of late. The Blazers have lost four straight games while the Giants have points in their last six games. Kamloops does have the decided edge in the season series with a 4-1-1-0 record while Vancouver is 2-3-1-0.

Everett Silvertips (34-11-3-1) @ Spokane Chiefs (29-17-4-1) 5:05 PM

Everett is limping into Spokane with just 10 forwards available for this evening’s game. They are especially good against the US Division rivals with a 7-0-1-0 record. Spokane has a poor 1-5-1-1 record. Both teams have played well recently, Spokane has won four games in a row while Everett has points in their last nine.

 

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