After 31 games and just two on the road left before the Christmas break, what is the biggest surprise this 2023-24 season with the Prince George Cougars?
There are a lot of choices; let’s take a look in no particular order.
Before we look at individuals, it is the team first.
To go this far into the season without back-to-back losses is impressive and shows the depth, willingness/desire to win.
At 22-9, it is the best in the Western Conference.
They have a whopping goals differential of a league-best +53 with 137 for and a paltry 84 against.
The Cougars also lead the league with 10 shorthanded goals, which is more than the eight they had all of the 2022-23 season.
Now to some individual players who have played at peak efficiency:
17-year-old Super Rookies:
The Cougars are built to win now but not at the expense of their future.
The 17-year-old Ravensbergen has already tied a WHL record for most shutouts by a rookie with six and that has come in just 14 starts.
In addition, he has tied the team record for shutouts in a season set by Scott Bowles in 2005-06.
Ravensbergen leads the league in save percentage (.935) and is second in goals-against-average (1.85).
The 17-year-old Parascak leads all rookies in goals with 24 and points with 46.
In the Cougars’ final home game before Christmas, those two led the way in a 1-0 victory over Victoria with Parascak tallying the Teddy Bear goal and Ravensbergen slamming the door shut with a goose egg.
Parascak goal, Ravensbergen shutout!!!
— Prince George Cougars (@PGCougars) December 10, 2023
Top point producer:
Riley Heidt, who was overlooked or as many have suggested snubbed by not getting an invite to Canada’s national junior team selection camp, has been racking up on average nearly two points a game, good enough for a share of the lead in the WHL scoring race. He has 55 points in 29 games.
Top goal and point producer:
Zac Funk take a bow! The 20-year-old Funk has a whopping 32 goals in just 31 games with 19 of them on the power play. Barring injury, he looks like a lock to break the Cougars record for most power-play goals in a season, which was set by Chase Wheatcroft in 2022-23 with 22. Funk also has 55 points, the same as linemate Heidt as they have a friendly battle for top scorer.
PG hockey fans are thrilled with this team and why wouldn’t they be?
The Cougars’ average attendance of 3,150 is higher than any season since 2016-17 and is the second most in the last 20 years.
With plenty of weekend games remaining that number should climb considerably higher.
The Christmas break is just about here. It should be a very Merry Jolly one for all members of the PG Cougars and their many supporters.
Cat Scan podcast:
This is season six of Hartley’s Cat Scan, a weekly podcast show that predominately features the PG Cougars.
This week my guest is Tyler Brough, who is the head coach of the U18 Cariboo Cougars and the president of the PG Cougars alumni association.
This week on @PGCougars Cat Scan #podcast, @CCougars18_aaa coach & Pres of #PGCougars alumni Ass. Tyler Brough. He talks about his 1st place team, being an “eye in the sky” for PG Cougars, the outdoor game in FS James, coaching aspirations & charity golf tourney & more. #hockey https://t.co/YVtiODUjeL
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) December 13, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
NFL VP of Football Operations Troy Vincent on recent criticism of blown calls “We’re always looking to improve officiating. The concern is to make sure we’re getting better.” Gosh, if only the league that generated over $18 BILLION in 2022 could afford to hire full-time officials.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Researchers at a New York university say the leading cause of sickness over the festive season is overexposure to Christmas trees. A close second is overexposure to Bowl games.
Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. After growing up in Winnipeg, he has lived in Prince George for the last 44 years and is in his 11th season as the radio colour commentator on the Prince George Cougars home games. Hartley is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).