The long, long journey to the 2017 RBC Cup has begun for the Cobourg Cougars.
The Cougars, who will host Canada’s National Junior A Championship next May, officially dropped the puck on their regular season schedule Monday night,
topping the Pickering Panthers 6-1.
The season-opener came 243 days before Game 1 of the RBC Cup – West Region champions vs. East Region champions – hits the ice May 13 at the Cobourg
The Cougars will also make their national championship debut on the opening day, facing off against the Central Region champions.
But that is still eight months away, and the focus Monday was on starting the season with two points.
The night belonged to Cobourg captain Josh Maguire; the hometown boy, who returned to Cobourg for his final year of junior hockey after spending four
seasons with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, scored twice and added two assists to pace the offence.
The game had a special meaning for Maguire; the pre-game ceremony honoured long-time Cougars volunteer Bill Maguire – Josh’s great-grandfather – who passed
away last spring.
“With family being in the stands and the pre-game ceremony for my great-grandfather who had a huge impact on this organization, standing on the line I was
fighting back some emotion for sure,” Maguire said to the Northumberland Today. “After that was over I felt the support of my family in the
Maguire didn’t waste any time getting the scoring started, finding the back of the net just 72 seconds in, before helping set up Hunter Atchison for a
power-play goal late in the first period.
He scored again early in the second, this time shorthanded, and had the lone assist on the 4-0 goal by Spencer Roberts. Ryan Casselman and Brenden Locke
capped the scoring with goals in the final frame, both with the man advantage.
The win continued a run of strong play for the Cougars, who were a perfect 5-0 during preseason play.
“It's been a long time coming for our team,” Cobourg head coach John Druce said of the opening game. “In training camp everybody worked hard and we've
prepared for the start of the season. It's going to be a long season, we know that, and the kids have been working hard and I know they're excited to play
Cobourg has a balance of new and old in its line-up to start the year; of the 18 players who dressed for the season opener, nine spent the 2015-16 season
with the Cougars, while nine are new faces, including one – defenceman Jesse Baird – who got RBC Cup experience last spring with the Brooks Bandits.
“There's always room for improvement and you're probably going to hear that a lot,” Druce told the Northumberland Today. “This team is still
growing and learning and we're developing and we're going to get better as the season goes along.”
Druce himself is a returnee in a new position; after joining the Cougars staff as an assistant coach last November, he was given the reins as head coach in
It’s the first heading coaching job for the former pro, who played 531 NHL games with Washington, Winnipeg, Los Angeles and Philadelphia from 1988 to 1998,
plus another 261 in the AHL.
This season will take the Cougars where they’ve never been before, both nationally and, hopefully, within the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Since joining
the Junior A ranks in 1993, Cobourg has never won an OJHL title or reached the league final, and has only been among the final eight teams on five
The Cougars will be the first OJHL team since the Streetsville Derbys in 2006 to host the RBC Cup. Ironically, the Derbys ceased operations after the
2010-11 season and merged with the Cougars.