© James Doyle Photography
Building towards the big stage
Regular-season champions in the BCMML, the Cariboo Cougars are ready for the next step on the Road to the TELUS Cup
Jason La Rose
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March 13, 2017
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The Cariboo Cougars hope the end of a record-breaking regular season is just the start of something even bigger and better.

The Cougars, who will host the 2017 TELUS Cup in late April, closed out their schedule with seven consecutive wins, clinching first place in the B.C. Major Midget League and setting a franchise record for victories in a season, with 34. They held off the Vancouver NE Chiefs by just two points for top spot.

Cariboo also set all-time team marks for most goals scored (214) and fewest goals allowed (75) in a season.

Returning much of the team that was swept in the BCMML final by the Valley West Hawks a year ago, the Cougars took control of the league early, posting a 23-2-1 record before the calendar turned to 2017.

They were 14-2 on Prince George ice, and went 9-3 against the three teams that finished right behind them in the standings – the Chiefs (2-2), Okanagan Rockets (3-1) and Greater Vancouver Canadians (4-0).

Cariboo had offensive leaders up front (Daine Dubois co-led the BCMML in scoring with 67 points) and on the blue-line (Jeremy Gervais paced all defencemen with 49 points) and weren’t too bad defensively (goaltenders Zack Wickson and Marcus Allen finished one-two in goals-against average at 1.70 and 2.01, respectively).

“We’re very deep; there’s not one guy or one line that does it all,” Dubois told the Prince George Citizen at the end of the regular season. “We all bring different stuff to the table and we just try to execute our strengths as best we can and I think we do a good job of it when we’re on.”

Balanced would be a good way to describe the Cougars. In total, 11 of 12 forwards and four of six defencemen reached the 20-point plateau, and eight players recorded double-digits in goals.

Now it’s on to the playoffs.

The postseason started with a first-round showdown with the eighth-place Kootenay Ice, and it went much like the regular season, with the Cougars rolling to 5-1 and 3-0 wins to sweep the best-of-three series.

The season series between the two was a mismatch, with Cariboo taking all four games in convincing fashion; they earned 8-2 and 6-0 wins on the road to open the season, and posted 8-0 and 10-1 victories at home in mid-December.

Cariboo is no stranger to playoff success, having reached the league championship series five times in the eight seasons Sprague has been behind the bench. But they haven’t been the last team standing since 2008.

This year, though, the pressure is off. They don’t necessarily NEED to win. Could that be the difference?

“We already know we’re in [the national championship] as hosts so we don’t have to worry about the TELUS Cup,” Sprague told the Citizen about his team’s mindset. “We just have to worry about what we need to do in each series and be able to play our way and be successful at that.

“I think having the majority of our team back [from last season], understanding that we made the final last year [and lost], it's something that all these guys – including the guys that are new to the team – all have that bee in their bonnet, like, 'We've got to complete the mission.'”

Cariboo drops the puck on Canada’s National Midget Championship on April 24 when it takes on the Pacific Region champions to wrap up Day 1 play at the CN Centre.

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Morgan Bell
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-669-1261 (mobile)
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

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