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HARTLEY’S HART ATTACK – (Cougars look to blast off vs Rockets) April 12, 2024 EDITION 988

The (49-15-1-3) Prince George Cougars finished 31 points ahead of the (33-30-4-1) Kelowna Rockets in the 2023-24 WHL regular season standings.

The (48-15-4-1) Portland Winterhawks finished just six points in front of the (45-18-2-3) Everett Silvertips.

One reason it was important for Prince George to end up first (a point ahead of Portland) was to get the better matchup in the second round.

This does not mean the Cougars are a shoo-in to beat the Rockets in the Conference semifinal, but on paper, Portland should have a more difficult time trying to eliminate
Everett than Prince George will in attempting to knock out Kelowna.

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The Cougars will have a full house at the CN Centre when they entertain the Rockets tonight (Friday) and Saturday before the best-of-seven series shifts to Kelowna for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It is the first time in 13 years that Prince George and Kelowna will meet in the playoffs.

Prince George owned a 6-1-0-1 record against Kelowna in the regular season, though six of the games were decided by a single goal and three required overtime or a shootout.

This will be a traditional 2-2-1-1-1 scheduling format unlike what was scheduled with Spokane in the opening round.

Of course, the Cougars did not need more than four games to eliminate the Chiefs.

If Prince George advances past the Rockets, the next series against the Winterhawks or Silvertips would be 2-3-2.

It has now been 10 weeks (Feb. 2nd) since the Cougars lost a game in regulation, a streak of 23 games (21-0-1-1).

Prince George, the top-ranked team in the CHL, is riding a 13-game winning streak, nine to end the regular season and four to start the playoffs.

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The Rockets, perhaps a bit under the radar, are quietly playing their best hockey of the season.

Starting from Family Day (Feb 19th), Kelowna went 9-2-1-1 in its last 13 regular season games.

Their only losses in that stretch were to Everett twice and to Prince George twice, however, both those games against the Cougars went beyond regulation with P.G. winning 6-5 in a shootout on Feb. 24th and 6-5 in overtime on March 13th.

5th seeded Kelowna got by #4 Wenatchee in six games (outscoring the Wild 25-18).

P.G. dominated #8 Spokane outscoring the Chiefs 20-9 in the four games.

The Rockets-Wild series was the only one to go beyond five games in a rather anti-climatic first round of the WHL playoffs.

Kelowna does not have as many weapons as Prince George but the Rockets can score at an impressive rate.

The Rockets had five players average more than a point a game in the six game series against the Wild.

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Two of them, Tij Iginla and Andrew Cristall, averaged nearly two points per game – both ended up with 11. Iginla tallied a whopping eight goals.

The Cougars had half-a-dozen players average a point per game or more in the sweep of the Chiefs and eight players who did that in the regular season.

If the Rockets are to pull off the upset they are going to have to find a way to win the Special Teams battle, an area where the Cougars have excelled.

Prince George was 31.8% on the power play in the first round, a continuation of the regular season where they were second in the league at 30.1%.

Kelowna was 25% on the power play in the playoff series against Wenatchee, a slight improvement from the regular season when they were 9th in the league over 68 games at 23.4%.

The penalty kill numbers strongly favor Prince George.

The Cougars were 2nd in league play at 84.3% and that increased to 93.8% in four playoff games.

The Rockets were 19th out of 22 teams at 72.5% and that did not improve in six playoff games going 72%.

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The Cougars are in a bit of unfamiliar territory; being the favourites in the second round and the added pressure that comes with that.

Prince George was a big underdog when they won a couple of rounds to advance to the Western Conference Final in 1997 and 2007.

The Cougars were the higher seed in 2000 in rounds one and two when they also made the West Final.

I think it is a given Kelowna will be a tougher opponent for Prince George than Spokane was this year.

Depth in talent though is a clear edge to P.G., who are coming off a 9-day break.

Confidence is at an-all-time high for the Cougars, as it should be.


Game Date Visitor Home Time
1 Friday, April 12 Kelowna Prince George 7:00 p.m. PST
2 Saturday, April 13 Kelowna Prince George 6:00 p.m. PST
3 Tuesday, April 16 Prince George Kelowna 7:05 p.m. PST
4 Wednesday, April 17 Prince George Kelowna 7:05 p.m. PST
5* Friday, April 19 Kelowna Prince George 7:00 p.m. PST
6* Sunday, April 21 Prince George Kelowna 2:05 p.m. PST
7* Tuesday, April 23 Kelowna Prince George 7:00 p.m. PST


*-If necessary


Cat Scan podcast:

This is season six of Hartley’s Cat Scan, a weekly podcast show that predominately features the PG Cougars.

This week’s guest is Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb.

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That time of year again. Too soon to start a pool on what day this year the Toronto Maple Leafs will be eliminated from the NHL Playoffs?

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California

Voters in Jackson County Missouri voted down a sales tax proposal that would have provided funds to renovate Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. But I hear there’s another plan in place to build a new stadium for the team, called the Swiftiedome.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

Happy anniversary Dale Earnhardt Jr. A little over seven years ago his steering wheel fell off during the Geico 500. Or as Kenny Rogers might say: You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel.

*Comedy writer RJ Currie of Winnipeg

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 11th year as the radio colour commentator for the 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).


Something going on in the Prince George area you think people should know about?
Send us a news tip by emailing [email protected].

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