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Back to hockey for Cougars

After five days quarantine and four postponed games, the Cats return to the rink to play Giants in Langley
Viliam Kmec
Prince George Cougars defenceman VIliam Kmec played playing for Slovakia at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship before the tournmanent was shut down in mid-stream. Kmec is ranked 92nd on NHL Central Scouting's list of North American skaters available for this year's draft. He and the Cougars will be in Langley to face the Vancouver Giants in a two-game set Friday and Saturday.

The Prince George Cougars are coming soon to a TV room near you.

Cats are heading south to Langley to play the Vancouver Giants on Friday and Saturday and Friday’s game will broadcast on TSN, giving the teams a national audience - coast to coast to coast.

“It’ll be exciting for them, they’ll get a lot of exposure,” said Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb. “It’s a big deal for the guys.”

The Cougars were shut down entirely for five days by the league until they had COVID test results confirmed at a lab in Edmonton. They had limited participation in practices Tuesday and Wednesday and had almost a full squad on the ice for more drills Thursday morning before they left on the bus with 19 players on board.

“Today was the first time we’ve practiced with everybody,” “We had three lines and six defencemen.”

Defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk and left winger Cayden Glover remained in Prince George in quarantine. Defenceman Aiden Reeves (foot injury) remains sidelined. Defenceman Aiden Brook has been sent to Dauphin of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The Giants and Cougars have so far split the season series, each team with three regulation wins. Their most recent meeting happened just before the Christmas break, in Langley, where the Giants won 3-1. Before that, the Cats swept a weekend series at home, Dec. 14-15, beating the Giants 5-3 and 7-3.

“Vancouver’s a real good team,” said Lamb. “They’re an older, heavier team but we’ve actually matched up well with them.”

For Prince George, Friday’s game will be their first since Jan. 1st in Kamloops, where they lost 7-1 to the Blazers. The Giants last played Jan. 2 at home, where they beat Kelowna 4-3 in overtime.Saturday’s game will be the 34th for the Cougars this season, exactly halfway through the 68-game schedule.

Five Cougars made NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, released on Wednesday. Tyler Brennan is the top North American goaltender available for this year’s draft, June 7-8 in Montreal . He’s considered a B prospect, projected the be chosen in the second or third round.

Ty Young, 17, is the 24th-ranked North American goalie in the NHL list, projected as a C prospect. Viliam Kmec, a 17-year-old defenceman from Slovakia, is the 92nd-ranked North American skater, while Dowhaniuk (136th) and defenceman Hudson Thornton (211) also made Central Scouting’s list of draft-eligible skaters.

The Cougars have a busy schedule ahead of them. They’ll play the Victoria Royals next Tuesday and Wednesday at CN Centre, the makeup dates for games postponed last week, then host the Kamloops Blazers next Friday in the first of a home-and-home series that has the same teams meeting the following night in Kamloops.

The following Monday, all teams will be required to finalize their rosters when the WHL trade deadline arrives at 2 p.m.

From Jan. 29 – Feb. 5 the Cougars will be on the road on a U.S. Division tour that includes stops at either end in Everett, sandwiched between visits to Tri-City, Spokane and Seattle.