Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cougars going 'business casual'

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Prince George Cougars are a relaxed bunch and it shows in their 4-0-0-0 record to start the Western Hockey League regular season. Wearing team track suits into the building before Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets, the casual attire is working for the BC Division's leading team. Dressing down over the traditional tie and suit which is typical of teams in the WHL is paying off for the Cougars, who have yet to play a home game this season after four straight away from CN Centre. They will have a chance to show their fans that they are indeed for real when they host the Kelowna Rockets in back-to-back games this weekend. The Cougars home opener is Friday night.
  • The casual track suit look may have been visible before game time, but what was also clearly eye catching was the way the Cougars played under new head coach Richard Matvichuk. The stupid penalties were eliminated and a much greater commitment to defensive hockey was clearly evident to the 43 hundred patrons who witnessed a rare home loss. The visitors surrendered only three power play chances and took only one trip to the penalty box in the first 44 minutes of the game. The Rockets allowed the Cougars six power play chances and were fingered to the penalty box four times for tripping alone. Fortunately, the PK came up large and failed to surrender a goal while a teammate was serving time. 
  • While Prince George forward Jared Bethune opened the scoring :56 seconds into the game and teammate Yan Khomenko scored the game winning goal late in the second period, the most dangerous forward for the Cougars was Brad Morrison. The 19 year-old New York Rangers draft pick created numerous offensive chances and was slippery every time he attempted to skate past a Rockets defender. Morrison, the brother-in-law of Josh Gorges, ended the game without a point.
  • The Rockets had little puck luck, with both Tomas Soustal and Kole Lind hitting the goal post.
  • Michael Herringer's left pad save on Cougars leading scorer Jared Bethune in the second period is worth taking another look it. It was a sure goal taken away. You will want to take a look at the highlites on the Kelowna Rockets website.  It has to be a candidate for the WHL plays of the week. 
  • What a heads up play by defenceman Cal Foote on the Rockets lone goal. Foote, while shorthanded, dumped the puck inside the Cougars zone but noticed they were making a line change. Foote chased the puck down in the corner, located Tomas Soustal all alone in front of the net, and the 19 year-old made a great move before sliding the puck past Prince George goaltender Ty Edmonds. Foote's awareness on the ice may be the best on the team. The draft eligible Foote's hockey IQ is excellent.  
  • The Rockets welcomed defencemen Brayden Chizen and Devante Stephens back to the line-up Wednesday. Chizen returned from the training camp of the Minnesota Wild while Stephens spent time with the Buffalo Sabres. 
  • Chizen was hurt in the third period when he awkwardly went into the side boards after being hit by Cougars forward Kolby Johnson.With no penalty on the play, Chizen made his way slowly off the ice but appeared to suffer an upper body injury and never returned.   
  • The Rockets are off to Prince George Thursday for the long trip to PG. Last season the team went 4-0-0-0 at the CN Centre, but wins won't come as easy up there as they have in the past.

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