Cougars and Pats clash for lone season meeting in WHL on Access action
Prince George Cougars (18-25-4-4) at Regina Pats (25-22-5-0)
Wednesday, January 31 – Brandt Centre – 7 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
In the course of a 72-game season, inter-conference games are rare, but still a treat to watch.
For as much as the two teams may only see each other once between September and March (and April/May if they’re lucky), the games serve as a chance to gain some temporary high ground on a team that won’t have the chance to respond until the following season.
Some of those elements will obviously be present in Wednesday’s WHL on Access matchup between the Regina Pats and Prince George Cougars at the Brandt Centre, but both teams will more be after the two points.
The Cougars haven’t had much to celebrate on their foray through the WHL’s East Division, losing the first three meetings on a six-game road trip and the Pats certainly won’t be an easy team to take on. By dealing away players like Kody McDonald and Dennis Cholowski (Detroit Red Wings) at the Western Hockey League’s Trade Deadline earlier this month, the Cougars are in a mode of building towards next year, but still have the next two months to build team chemistry with some young players and veterans who will be around to guide next year’s team.
As an 18-year-old, Josh Maser fits into the later part of the previous statement, even though he’s only played in 74 career WHL games. His 35 points (22G-13A) in 50 games this season has been a revelation for the Cougars and he’s clearly established himself as the top goal scorer for the Cougars.
Others, like defenceman Joel Lakusta have also set career-highs this season with 29 points (6G-23A) in 51 games.
Going even younger, trade deadline pickups like Ilijah Colina have impressed has impressed in his first few weeks with the Cougars, tallying six points (2G-4A) in nine games with his new club.
With overagers Aaron Boyd, Brogan O’Brien, and the Cougars’ leading scorer, Jared Bethune, there is room for the Cougars to make some noise in the final 21 games. Their 10th-ranked penalty kill has only conceded 48 goals against while short-handed.
Also of note to watch is 2018 NHL Draft prospect Jackson Leppard, who has proven himself to be handy part of the Cougars’ lineup this season and could show some gamed-breaking tendencies on the big stage of Wednesday’s game.
In net, Tavin Grant has led this year’s statistical categories between the pipes for the Cougars, but given as he started Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Swift Current Broncos, it could end up being Taylor Gauthier in net. The 2001-born netminder was a first round selection of the Cougars in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and has 5-10-1-1 record this season while also sporting a 3.86 goals-against-average and .876 save percentage.
Turning attention the Pats way shines a bright light on their chance to escape from a two-game slide, from a home-and-home series with the Swift Current Broncos, which saw them outscored 7-2.
Still, a 7-4-2-0 record is impressive to a certain degree and a sign the Pats are getting better in the lead up to the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup. A big part of the Pats’ success this month has belonged to Josh Mahura (Anaheim Ducks), who has been held pointless in the last two games, but had 15 points (5G-10A) in the six games before that. Matt Bradley is just one goal away from back-to-back 30-goal campaigns and has had perhaps one of the more impressive years on the Pats roster.
Also worth watching Wednesday is seeing how Pats forward Jesse Gabrielle (Bosoton Bruins) plays against his former club that dealt him to the Pats less than a month ago. Defenceman Jonas Harkins will also go against his former club while Kjell Kjemhus will go against the Pats in his return to the Brandt Centre.
A few favourable playoff possibilities still exist for the Pats, who returned players like Jake Leschyshyn (Vegas Golden Knights) and Emil Oksanen to the lineup over the weekend, starting with staying in their current position as the first wild card team and playing the Medicine Hat Tigers, a team they’re 2-1 against this season, in the first round.
It’s also worth noting that after Wednesday’s game, the Pats will round out their regular season with 19 straight games against Eastern Conference clubs, including meetings against all seven teams in a playoff spot besides the Pats.
Watch all the exciting action play out between the Pats and Cougars in WHL on Access action from the Brandt Centre Wednesday evening!
PREVIEW: Cougars face @WHLPats, looking for their first win of the road trip.
— PG Cougars (@PGCougars) January 31, 2018
Prince George Cougars
Head coach: Richard Matvichuk
Leading scorers: LW Jared Bethune (16-32-48); LW Josh Maser (22-13-35); LW Aaron Boyd (9-20-29); D Joel Lakusta (6-23-29)
Leading goaltender: Tavin Grant (30GP, 12-14-3-1, 3.42 GAA, .899 SV%, 1SO)
Power play: 21st – 16.4%
Penalty kill: 10th – 78.7%
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) January 31, 2018
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Cameron Hebig (34-34-68); C Matt Bradley (29-28-57); D Josh Mahura (17-33-50)
Leading goaltender: Ryan Kubic (28GP, 12-14-2-0, 3.67 GAA, .888 SV%)
Power play: 11th – 22.3%
Penalty kill: 21st – 73.6%
Injuries/unavailable: C Scott Mahovlich (lower body, one week)
Jan. 31 – Prince George at Regina*
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast