The curtain rises on the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien Friday, March 31, and WHL.ca is previewing each of the eight First Round matchups. We continue by examining the series between the Prince George Cougars and Tri-City Americans.
They’ve never faced one another in the WHL Playoffs, but that’s all set to change this weekend when the Prince George Cougars take on the Tri-City Americans.
The best-of-seven First Round series begins Friday, March 31 in Prince George (7:00 p.m. PT, CN Centre).
The Cougars hold home ice advantage after finishing in second place in the B.C. Division with a 37-24-6-1 record. This series will be played in a 2-3-2 format thanks to the 1,138 kilometre / 707 mile distance between the two arenas. Only five points separated the two sides in the regular season standings, too.
New Dallas Stars signee Chase Wheatcroft recorded just the second 100-point season in Prince George Cougars history during the regular campaign, leading the team in goals (47), assists (60) and points (107). The Calgarian is coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference Championship with the Winnipeg ICE a season ago, where his Club was bested by current teammate Jaxsen Wiebe (Anaheim Ducks) and the 2022 WHL Champion Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Americans were the only WHL Club to have a defenceman lead the team in scoring this season, as 2023 NHL Draft prospect Lukas Dragicevic finished the regular season with 15 goals and 75 points. But like the Cougars, Tri-City added a key piece from Edmonton’s 2022 WHL Championship squad, adding Chicago Blackhawks prospect Jalen Luypen in a pre-season trade. The Kelowna, B.C. product wrapped his regular season with a WHL Player of the Week nod Monday.
Aside from Dragicevic, there is plenty of NHL Draft intrigue in this series. The Prince George duo of Riley Heidt and Koehn Ziemmer combined for 186 points during the regular season while in the Tri-Cities, scouts have taken note of the performance put in by goaltender Tomas Suchanek after he helped Czechia capture a silver medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The goaltending matchup is an intriguing one. The Cougars boast two NHL prospects between the pipes, though it’s been New Jersey Devils draftee Tyler Brennan who’s garnered most of the workload down the stretch. The Winnipeg, Man. product led the Club with 21 wins, earning the victory in nine of his last 11 starts. Oddly, Brennan did not play a minute in the season series versus Tri-City in 2022-23.
Suchanek sparkled in his second season in Kennewick, Wash, winning 27 games and posting a .912 save percentage over his 46 appearances in goal for the Americans. He was the goaltender of record in each of Tri-City’s three wins against Prince George this season.
The two teams have not faced one another since the Americans swept a two-game home series December 9 and 10. Offensively, Ziemmer led the way for the Cougars, scoring five times in four games against Tri-City, while veteran forwards Ethan Ernst and Jake Sloan each chipped in with five points for the Americans in the season set.
As mentioned above, the two teams have never faced each other in the WHL Playoffs, but both sides come into the post-season as two of the hottest Clubs in the League. Prince George ended the regular season on an 11-game point streak (8-0-2-1), while Tri-City has not lost in regulation time in its last seven games (6-0-0-1).
|Prince George Cougars||Tri-City Americans|
|Record||37-24-6-1 (2nd, B.C.)||34-26-5-3 (3rd, U.S.)|
|Leading Scorers||Chase Wheatcroft (47-60-107)
Riley Heidt (25-72-97)
Koehn Ziemmer (41-48-89)
|Lukas Dragicevic (15-60-75)
Parker Bell (25-39-64)
Ethan Ernst (32-31-63)
|Leading Goaltender||Tyler Brennan (21-10-3-0, 2.56, .898)||Tomas Suchanek (27-14-1-2, 3.05, .912)|
|Power Play||27.7% (2nd)||27.3% (5th)|
|Penalty Kill||74.0% (18th)||74.5% (17th)|
|2022 WHL Playoffs||Lost First Round (Portland)||Did not qualify|
|Last WHL Championship||1981||-none-|
2022-23 REGULAR SEASON SERIES
Prince George (3) at Tri-City (4) – December 10, 2022
Prince George (3) at Tri-City (4) OT – December 9, 2022
Tri-City (8) at Prince George (3) – September 24, 2022
Tri-City (1) at Prince George (5) – September 23, 2022
Prince George Cougars: Chase Wheatcroft has proven he can do it all this season, scoring a career-best 47 goals and 107 points and earning himself an NHL contract with the Dallas Stars earlier this month. He finished the regular season on a five-game point streak, a stretch that included a five-point effort (2G-3A) March 15 against the Kelowna Rockets.
Chase Wheatcroft ended off his last regular season game with this STUNNER!🥶
— BarDown (@BarDown) March 26, 2023
Tri-City Americans: Lukas Dragicevic has oodles of offensive ability as displayed by his 75-point regular season. He led the Club with 32 power-play points (4G-28A) and shots on goal (211) over his 68 games played, and also chipped in with a pair of short-handed markers.
Lukas Dragicevic gets his 15th of the season!
(Also, can we just take a minute to appreciate Parker Bell faking a pass reception.)@TCAmericans | #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/9ZFuYQ0APq
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 5, 2023
Prince George Cougars: Tyler Brennan is the elder of the two Cougars netminders, both of whom were drafted by NHL Clubs in 2022. Like the rest of his team, the Winnipegger is heating up at the right time. The New Jersey Devils prospect holds a 15-4-3-0 record since December 1 and comes into the playoffs with a 9-1-1-0 record over his last 11 starts.
WOW! 🤯@PGCougars | @NJDevils pic.twitter.com/g1xjaZLNYw
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 16, 2023
Tri-City Americans: Tomas Suchanek’s two appearances at the IIHF World Junior Championship have earned him accolades and national press, but in Kennewick, Wash., he’s been the talk of the town for two full seasons. Of the 16 starting goaltenders taking part in the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien, only one (Regina’s Drew Sim) made more saves than Suchanek’s 1,383 stops during the regular season. His .912 save percentage was also third-best among Western Conference netminders.
📽️ SAVE OF THE NIGHT 📽
Tomas Suchanek Is Best ❤️@RealCdnSS | @TCAmericans | #SaveoftheNight pic.twitter.com/HNailOBSIH
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 16, 2023
Prince George Cougars: Jaxsen Wiebe was a huge piece of the Edmonton Oil Kings WHL Championship squad a season ago. A physical centreman, Wiebe earned an NHL contract with the Anaheim Ducks earlier this month, collecting 35 points in 39 games since joining the Cougars from the Edmonton Oil Kings via trade. His shining moment in the 2022 post-season was a hat-trick performance, including an overtime winner versus Saint John at the 2022 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.
Don't get caught in Jaxsen's Wiebe. @PGCougars pic.twitter.com/kNS0P9LsQs
— The WHL (@TheWHL) February 22, 2023
Tri-City Americans: Jalen Luypen knows what it takes to win, plain and simple, after helping the Edmonton Oil Kings capture the WHL Championship in 2022. A seventh-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2021, Luypen signed an NHL contract with the team last fall. He set a new career best in his final major junior regular season game this past Friday, scoring three times and totalling six points in a 7-4 Americans win over the Spokane Chiefs.
The name's Luypen. Snipin' Luypen.@TCAmericans | @NHLBlackhawks | #WHLHatTricks pic.twitter.com/H37SrEjdJx
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 25, 2023
|1||March 31, 2023||Tri-City||Prince George||7:00 p.m. PT|
|2||April 1, 2023||Tri-City||Prince George||6:00 p.m. PT|
|3||April 4, 2023||Prince George||Tri-City||7:05 p.m. PT|
|4||April 5, 2023||Prince George||Tri-City||7:05 p.m. PT|
|5||April 7, 2023||Prince George||Tri-City||7:05 p.m. PT||*|
|6||April 9, 2023||Tri-City||Prince George||6:00 p.m. PT||*|
|7||April 11, 2023||Tri-City||Prince George||7:00 p.m. PT||*|
* – if necessary
Through WHL Live on CHL TV, fans can enjoy every single scheduled game throughout the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien with the purchase of a WHL All-Access Pass at the low price of $59.99 plus applicable taxes and fees.
WHL Live – 2023 WHL Playoffs Packages
Round-by-Round: $19.99 per round
24-Hour Access: $9.99
* all prices in Canadian dollars
+ does not include applicable taxes and fees
WHL Live on CHL TV is available to fans anywhere in the world, providing high-quality streaming of WHL games on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV platforms, via mobile with iOS and Android, and on web using Safari or Google Chrome web browsers. Visit WHLLive.com for complete details.