Friday, September 20, 2013

Game One: Portland vs. Prince George

The format will be a little different this year, as instead of a large season preview, I will just preview individual games, with what I expect from the opposing team as well as how they match up with the Hawks.

Prince George Cougars (21-43-0-2-6, 9th in the Western Conference-out of the playoffs)
Last Season:
For the second season in a row Prince George finished out of the playoffs, after having an up and down (mostly down) season in 2012-13. The low point last season was when Head Coach for the last 4 seasons: Dean Clark was fired after 46 games, after starting 14-26-0-6. The AHL's: Syracuse Crunch Coach Mark Hollick was hired on and after a torrid start, the wheels fell of on the way to a 7-17-0-2 record the rest of the way, including losing their last 5 in a row. Hollick played for the Saskatoon Blades in the mid-80's and coached the Kootenay Ice for 3 season from 2007-2010. He is notorious for In each of his 3 seasons with the Ice, he got them into the playoffs, so he has had reasonable success at the WHL level. Another low point from last season, was when former #1 overall Bantam Pick: Alex Forsberg demanded a trade from GM Dallas Thompson and was not given one. He then left the team for the rest of the season, before changing his mind and returning for this season.
Zach Pochiro

Prince George was led in scoring by former Seattle Thunderbird: Colin Jacobs last year with 25 goals and 28 assists for 53 points. Jacobs, a 4th round selection by the Buffalo Sabres, is 20( '93 born) now and so is going to spend the season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. News just came out today that the Cougars top # 2 scorer from last season: '94 born Troy Bourke (50 points) was returned by the Colorado Avalanche earlier today. It is not know whether he will be in the lineup for tonight's game.

Another returning leading scorer: '95 born Zach Pochiro (39 points) was returned by the St. Louis Blues in time to be in the lineup for tonight's game. He will join, former Edmonton Oil King: Klarc Wilson, '93 born, (26 points) as Wilson who also was returned (by the New York Rangers), after receiving a tryout as a 20 year old.
Jansen Harkins

The Forwards corps should also get help from '97 born, second overall bantam pick in 2012: Jansen Harkins. Harkins was tops in preseason scoring with 9 points in 5 games. The 16 year old Center has shown the elite playmaking ability that has the Cougars thinking big for the future.

With the return of Forsberg, Bourke, Wilson and Pochiro along with '95 born Chase Witala (36 pts) and '94 born Jari Ericcson (28 pts) and young offensive punch from the likes of Harkins, there is real reason for optimism this season in Prince George as they should be able to improve on their 21st ranked 177 goals last season (only Everett was worse). The real questions for the Cougars this season appear to be not on the front end, but on the defensive side.
Tough Guy Peter Kosterman

This is a real young group with the loss of '92 borns: Daniel Gibb and Dallas Ehrhardt. Those two really carried the load on the back end for the Cougars last season and their loss will be felt deeply. The 2013-14 Defensive squad will be led by '95 born 4th round pick by the Red Wings: Marc McNulty, '95 born(late b-day) Raymond Grewal and '95 born (late birthday) Joseph Carvalho. They made a recent trade; acquiring '93 born Peter Kosterman for a 4th round bantam pick, hoping to add a little experience to a very young defensive squad. This is where the issues start for the Cougs this season, as when they come up against potent offensive lineups like in Portland and Kelowna. Their young D-men will struggle in keeping the puck out of the net, especially with the person behind them, in net, being an unproven asset.
Brett Zarowny

Brett Zarowny is penciled in as the starter for P.G. as '93 born, starter last season: Mac Engel was released. Zarowny got into 31 games last season and sported a 3.74 GAA and an .886 save percentage. Behind him is '96 born Ty Edmonds, who only played one game last season. Zarowny will need to stand on his head this season, with the defense in front of him and I do not know if he will be up to the task.

Tonight's Game:
It goes 7pm at the Moda Center (that's gonna take some getting used to). This should be a great game for the Hawks to get their legs under them, as 7 players were recently returned from NHL camps and still more are away for some time. Portland swept P.G. in the season series last season, and there really should be no reason they should not do so again in the 4 games they play this season. This really pits Portland's biggest known strength (scoring) with P.G.'s biggest weakness (young and in-experienced Defense). The Cougars should improve on their record last season, with a lot of scoring depth, but will continue to struggle against the elite teams like Portland.

The Hawks should also be playing in front of a packed house for the home opener and should be in high spirits, watching banner after banner get lifted into the rafters.

Look for a high energy start for Portland, that should be too much for Zarowny and the P.G. Defense to bear.

Random Notes:
-The Hawks should have a young defensive squad of their own tonight as Derrick Pouliot is still away at NHL camp and the last defensive pairing will be some mix of Keoni Texeira, Zach Paterson and Layne Viveiros.
-Pouliot is really making a go of his camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he scored his first NHL goal in a 4-3 preseason shootout win over Chicago last night.
-Shane McColgan and Joe Mahon should also be out of the lineup as they both recover from off-season shoulder surgery. Mahon had shoulder surgery and McColgan had surgery on his hand following a weight lifting accident.
-Jared Schamerhorn won the backup job behind Brendan Burke over Adin Hill, though he will not get the start in tonight's opener, most likely.
-With Brendan Leipsic still away at camp and Dominic Turgeon, McColgan and Mahon injured, look for Alex Schoenborn to get in the lineup and Ethan Price and Steven Alldridge to make their Portland debuts.
-It will be great to see Coach Mike Johnston behind the bench in Portland for the first time since mid-season last year. Hopefully Portland fans give him a standing ovation tonight.

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