After practice Friday, Mark Holick wouldn't come right out and say it, but considering how well Ty Edmonds has tended goal for the Prince George Cougars, the head coach would be nuts not to start the 17-year-old against the Blazers tonight in Kamloops.
In Edmonds' last three games dating back to the Cougars' 3-1 win over the Blazers last Saturday, he's allowed just two goals. He shut out the Victoria Royals on Tuesday and was beaten just once by the Royals in Wednesday's rematch at CN Centre. Unfortunately for the Cats, that was the only goal of the game.
"The kid's been lights-out for us and I wish we could provide him more offensive support," said Holick. "Our team has to score more than two goals a night to be successful. You shouldn't lose 1-0 very often. Our goal is to score more goals and that's what we've done in practice the last two days trying to create more offence somehow."
The Cougars have also tried to work out the kinks of their power play, which has been downright stinky from the start of the season. Through seven games and 37 chances, the Cougars have scored just three power-play goals. Worse yet, they've already allowed four shorthanded goals, including Ben Walker's gamewinner for Victoria on Wednesday.
"We're working on it, we have no choice," said Holick. "Our power play's nonexistent. We're not shooting the puck enough, not even enough attempts, never mind shots on net. When you don't put pucks to the net you become stationary and that makes it easy for the penalty-killers when they don't have to recover."
Last weekend the Blazers beat the Cougars 5-2 in Game 1 of what will be a 10-game regular season series. Both teams know the significance of losing to a divisional rival and that will certainly be a motivating factor on both sides of the ice tonight.
"They're our closest geographical rival and it's a four-point game," said Holick. "We want to make sure we play a structured sound and that gives us the best chance to win. We have to remain patient and stay out of the penalty box, although our PK has improved immensely. We're on the road and we have no one to impress."
The Blazers will be without one of their top forwards, Dallas Stars draft pick Cole Ully (three goals in four games), who will serve the first of a two-game suspension for his check from behind on Cougars defenceman Sam Ruopp during last Saturday's game in Prince George. Ruopp got cut on the bridge of his nose and had to have some dental work as a result of his face-first encounter with the glass.
The Cougars won't be at full-strength either. Centre David Soltes is still out with a leg injury and the same can be said about winger Jari Erricson. Holick said there were a few other gametime decisions to be made. The Cougars' roster is down to 24 players following the release of 18-year-old winger Austin Ferguson earlier this week.
A win tonight would lift the Cougars (3-4-0-0) to the .500 mark. Kamloops brought a 1-3-0-0 record to their home ice Friday when they took on Victoria.
"We just have to be more intense and play like we did in the third [on Wednesday] and come with a different attitude," said Cougars captain Troy Bourke. "We obviously need to get better on the power play and we'll keep working on it. It happens to every team at some point in the year and you have to just keep working at it or you're not going to get better at it."