When the Prince George Cougars begin the home portion of their Western Hockey League schedule tonight they'll want to deliver a message to the Seattle Thunderbirds, the league and their fans.
The Cougars were dreadful at CN Centre last season posting a 11-24-0-1 record (24-46-0-2 overall) with opponents often rolling over them with ease, particularly on Fridays when they were 2-10. Changing the image of being pushovers at home is a priority.
Cougars head coach Dean Clark said the team is flying high after beginning the season with a pair of wins in Everett, where they scored 13 times, and are stoked to play in front of a large crowd tonight, 7 p.m., against the T-birds (1-1).
"I know our guys are excited about it and looking forward to it," said Clark. "We've got to do the best we can to sell what we're all about and hopefully create some excitement in the city and get some people out. Some wins at home will certainly add to that environment."
In 2011 it took until Oct. 29, their sixth home game, for the Cats to get into the win column.
If the Cougars can string some early wins together they may be able to rev up some excitement among hockey-starved fans who are looking for an outlet with the NHL lockout dragging on - Thursday the league canceled all its preseason games.
Cougars rookie Zach Pochiro said it's an opportunity for the team.
"The WHL is going to attract a lot of fans if there's not [NHL ] hockey," said Pachiro. "It's actually cool. We've got to come out and show them we are a good team. Show we can do it all - fights, hits, goals and prove to these fans that we deserve the fan base that we're going to get on the first night and maybe we can get some more as the season progresses."
Friday's game marks the first time the Forsberg brothers - Jesse for the T-birds and Alex for the Cougars - will play against each other after Jesse was traded to Seattle in the off season. It will also be the first time Colin Jacobs plays against his former teammates in Seattle. The 19-year-old is tied for second among the WHL scoring leaders with six points.
Witala a no-go
Clark confirmed Thursday that Chase Witala wouldn't be in the Cougars' lineup tonight, adding it was a day-to-day situation and the 17-year-old may be ready Saturday. Witala suffered an upper-body bruise late in the first period of Saturday's 6-0 win in Everett.