44 down and 24 to go for the Prince George Cougars.
This weekend is a challenge with three games in three days south of the border, starting with Spokane tonight (Friday), then Tri-City on Saturday and Wenatchee on Sunday.
The five-game road trip also has them playing Seattle on Tuesday and Vancouver in one week (Friday, Feb. 2nd).
After that 11 of their last 19 are at the friendly confines of CN Centre.
25 % of the remaining two dozen games for the Cougars are against the worst team, not just in the West, but the entire league the (11-28-3-2) Kamloops Blazers.
The other 18 include four against Victoria, four against Vancouver, three against Seattle, three against Spokane, two against Kelowna and one each against Tri-City and Wenatchee.
The majority of the rest of the regular season schedule is against teams with losing records (17 of 24).
Prince George is one of three teams realistically battling for the top spot in the Conference along with Portland and Everett.
The (30-14-1-2) Silvertips are first by two points over P.G. but the (30-13-0-1) Cougars have three games in hand.
The (28-11-2-1) Winterhawks are four points back of Everett but Portland has five games in hand.
The huge advantage for Prince George to be the Conference top seed entering the playoffs is not only home-ice advantage but the Cougars would avoid playing a top contender like Portland or Everett until the third round.
The Cougars split their season series against the Winterhawks (2-2).
Last weekend was as good as it gets for regular season games in January as PG won on Friday night 3-2 (getting the winner with 45 seconds left) and Portland took the Saturday game 2-1 (thanks in part to 34 saves from Winterhawks goalie Nick Avakyan) before a packed house of 6,009 on Indigenous Night.
The Cougars lost three of the four head-to-head games this season against the Silvertips.
Against the other eight teams in the Conference, Prince George has a winning record (total of 27-8-0-1).
This weekend could be a playoff preview for the Cougars as there is a good chance either Spokane or Tri-City could be their first-round opponent.
P.G. would face the 8th seed if they are first in the Conference or the 7th seed if they win the B.C. Division and come second in the Conference.
#7 Vancouver, #8 Tri-City and #9 Spokane are all separated by just two points with #10 Seattle seven points out of a playoff spot but with five games in hand.
The Cougars in all probability will start the playoffs with the first two games on home ice but sweeping the two will be a challenge regardless of the opponent.
Six teams (in this order), Tri-City (Sept 23rd), Wenatchee (Oct 7th), Vancouver (Nov 15th), Everett (Nov 28th), Kelowna (Jan 13th) and Portland (Jan 20th) all got a split of a doubleheader against the Cougars this season at CN Centre as they lost the first game but won the second.
A 7th team, Victoria, also got a split in Prince George after the Royals won the first game (Dec 8th) before the Cats came back with a victory in the second the next night.
This is an example of how difficult it is to beat the same opponent on back-to-back nights regardless of where they are in the standings.
If you are curious, the Cougars’ average attendance this season following the full house on Indigenous Night is up to 3,363 which is already nearly 800 more than a year ago.
It is the second most in the last 20 years and with 10 of their remaining 11 games left on a weekend (including a holiday Monday) they have a shot of surpassing the 3,626 total from the 2016-17 season.
The fans who watched all or part of the doubleheader last weekend against the Winterhawks will certainly want to come back for more.
Winning entertaining hockey will do that.
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 guests are the top two scorers on the Cougars, Zac Funk and Riley Heidt.
High-scoring Riley Heidt & Zac Funk of the @PGCougars are Cat Scan #podcast guests. They discuss the battle against Portland, striving to be the best team, the P.G. coaches, reflecting on their midget playing days and Zac gives an update on a possible NHL contract. https://t.co/IRfqj0qw0h
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) January 23, 2024
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Jim Harbaugh has been tabbed as the LA Chargers head coach and the preparation for his moving to the area has already started—Los Angeles International Airport has had to hire 150 temp employees in the baggage department.
After winning the national championship with Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is leaving to be head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Now the question is, with their coach gone, will the Wolverines still end up on probation or face a bowl ban?
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
I imagine it must be tough for Saskatchewan curling fans to cheer Mike McEwen, longtime arch-rival from Manitoba, suddenly skipping a Saskatoon-based team in 2024. Call it sweeping with the enemy.
*Comedy writer RJ Currie of Winnipeg www.Sportsdeke.com
Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He is in his 10th season as the radio colour commentator for Prince George Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the airwaves in PG since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).