Tonight at the LEC the Vancouver Giants look to wrap up the calendar year of 2017 on a major positive. So far this week the Giants are 1-1 and the two games couldn’t have been more different. Wednesday it was disaster for the G-Men as they got blown out in a big way at home by Everett. Yet they responded wonderfully last night against the same Everett Silvertips squad with a 2-1 win. A victory tonight for Vancouver allows them to win the week, and would also give them 20 on the season through only 38 games. The Giants managed only 20 victories last season. Standing in their way tonight are the Prince George Cougars – A team that are six points out of a playoff spot and in desperate need of some victories if they want to keep pace. Tonight’s game marks the fifth of eight meetings on the season between the two rivals and the first of four matchups upcoming within the next 11 days.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Head Coach: Richard Matvichuk
Road Record: 6-10-0-2
Last Game: A 7-1 loss in Victoria on December 28th
Last 10: 4-5-1-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 107/130 (-23)
Power Play: 15.9% (21st in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.2% (8th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Kody McDonald (33GP – 15G – 17A – 32PTS), Jared Bethune (35GP – 9G – 21A – 30PTS), Dennis Cholowski (33GP – 8G – 21A – 29PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Josh Maser: The sophomore forward from Houston B.C. is tied for the team lead in goal-scoring with 15. He’s scored in each of his past two games and has eight goals in his last eight games along with three assists.
Kody McDonald: The Cougars leading scorer brings a little bit of everything to the table. He’s tied for the team lead in goals (15), and leads the team outright in points (32), penalty minutes (52) and shots on goal (114).
WHO’S ON D:
Dennis Cholowski: The first-round selection of the Detroit Red Wings (in 2016) has recorded seven assists over his past nine games and logs enormous minutes for the Cougars in all situations. He’s extremely gifted offensively and can use his speed and smarts to help calm things down for what is still a very young Cougars club. He has a goal and three assists for four points in four games against Vancouver this season.
Joel Lakusta: The 19-year-old has put forth a nice third season in the WHL. Offensively he’s set new career highs in goals (4) and points (14) and can more than hold his own defensively as well. Earlier this week Lakusta scored twice in what ended up as a 5-3 Cougars victory in Victoria on December 27th.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Tavin Grant: The 19-year-old is 1-2 this season against the Giants with a .939 save percentage and a 2.02 goals-against-average. He was the winning goaltender on December 27th in Victoria and currently holds a record of 9-10-2-0 with a shutout, a 3.16 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage.
Jared Bethune: The 20-year-old has always been a thorn in the Giants side and this season has been no exception. He leads all Cougars with two goals and three assists for five points in four games against Vancouver, and last season he led all Cougars with six goals against Vancouver. He’s dynamic, aggressive and versatile for Prince George and will likely be a big factor in any of their success tonight.
Head Coach: Jason McKee
Home Record: 11-7-0-0
Last Game: A 2-1 victory in Everett over the Silvertips
Last 10: 8-2-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 129/135 (-6)
Power Play: 23.0% (8th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 75.8% (15th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (37GP – 31G – 15A – 46PTS), James Malm (37GP – 13G – 23A – 36PTS), Tyler Benson (24GP – 14G – 19A – 33PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Tyler Benson: The Giants captain came through in the clutch again last night as he netted the game-winner at 12:19 of the second period. Benson has compiled 14 goals to go along with his 19 assists and perhaps most impressively hasn’t gone more than two consecutive games all season without notching at least a point.
Ty Ronning: The 20-year-old leads the Giants in goals with 31, but has been held off the score sheet in each of the past two games this week. Ronning had several great looks at the net last night, but couldn’t capitalize. He’s a threat every time he takes the ice though, and the Cougars should have their hands full trying to keep him and his linemates contained tonight at the LEC.
WHO’S ON D:
Dylan Plouffe: In four games against the Cougars this season, Plouffe has registered three assists. He comes into tonight’s game with six goals, 22 assists and a +8 rating. He’s in the midst of a true ‘breakout’ season, and tonight Plouffe will attempt to make another positive impact as the G-Men pursue their 20th victory.
Bowen Byram: The 16-year-old rookie scored the Teddy Bear Toss goal for the Giants against Prince George back on December 17th, and now sits at two goals and 10 assists for 12 points. Byram bounced back with a strong effort last night in Everett and should get his share of minutes and opportunities tonight.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
David Tendeck/Todd Scott: David Tendeck played brilliantly last night in what ended up as a 2-1 win for the Giants over Everett. Does the quick turnaround open the door for Todd Scott to get the start tonight? The last game Todd Scott started was on December 16th in Victoria and he was brilliant making 25 saves on 27 shots faced. He’s 0-2 this season against Prince George, however. Either way, the Giants are going to need strong goaltending as they face a rested Cougars team in need of some victories.
That Same Compete Level: The Giants showed excellent character and resolve last night, bouncing back from Wednesday’s embarrassment with a big-time response victory. Tonight, they face a different type of challenge, yet it’s an equally important one. A win for the Giants tonight could move them to within a single point of second place in the B.C. Division and would match their win total from the previous season. To do that in just 38 games would be a heck of an accomplishment for Jason McKee’s crew, but they won’t get there unless they bring that same type of work-ethic and mentality to the table tonight.