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Cougars looking to build momentum
Until Tuesday night at CN Centre, November was a no-win month for the Prince George Cougars.
A 4-3 shootout triumph over the Eastern Conference’s Regina Pats snapped a seven-game losing streak. The victory also gave them momentum before hitting the road to meet the Victoria Royals in a doubleheader, tonight and Saturday in the provincial capital.
Tuesday’s triumph improved the Cougars’ record to eight wins, 11 losses, one overtime setback and three shootout defeats (8-11-1-3). With 20 points, they’re only four in arrears of the Royals (12-11-0-0), who happen to be the Cougars’ first opponent after they return home next week.
With four games in a row against the Royals, who sit third in the five-team B.C. Division, the schedule is providing the Cougars a great opportunity to make ground in the Western Hockey League standings. Before Wednesday evening’s action, the Cats were tied with the Everett Silvertips for eighth in the 10-team Western Conference. Everett carried a 9-14-0-2 record into its road game against the Spokane Chiefs (15-7-0-0).
The Royals are sixth in the conference, while the Seattle Thunderbirds are seventh. The Thunderbirds were 10-11-1-0 entering their home game against the Kootenay Ice, who also play out of the Eastern Conference.
While the Kamloops Blazers (19-5-0-1 as of Wednesday) were running away with the B.C. Division and led the conference, the Kelowna Rockets (12-8-1-1) are only six points ahead of the Cougars. The Rockets sit second in the B.C. Division and fifth in the conference.
With 14 of the Cougars’ next 16 games against B.C. Division opposition, how they fare through the upcoming schedule will play a major role in where they stand entering the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“We’ve talked about this portion of our schedule knowing that we’ve got teams here that we need to be very competitive against,” Cougars head coach Dean Clark said on Wednesday.
Like the Cats, the Royals have struggled. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games. Clark said they have a similar lineup to last season.
“They added (forward Alex) Gogolev from Calgary as a 20-year-old, so offensively I think they’re still going to be a team we have to reckon with,” Clark said. “I think we got to apply some pressure on their defence, and then cause some turnovers is what we have to do.”
First goals – A pair of forwards in the Cougars lineup on Tuesday recorded their first WHL goals in the victory over the Pats, 15-year-old underager Brad Morrison and 16-year-old rookie Carson Bolduc.
Attendance – While it wasn’t the quietest crowd for a Cougars home game, Tuesday’s attendance was among the lowest. Announced attendance was 1,454.
Injuries – A pair of Cougars forwards will miss action this weekend with injuries. Troy Bourke (upper body) will be out of the lineup this weekend, but is expected to be ready to return the following weekend at home. Broke Hirsche (upper body) is still on the 30-day injured list.
Suspension – Cougars forward Caleb Belter will serve the final contest of a three-game suspension this evening. He got handed the penalty as a result of his boarding major during their home game against the Saskatoon Blades on Nov. 16