cariboo cougars season opener
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New season, new journey
They already have a foot in the door as 2017 TELUS Cup hosts, but the Cariboo Cougars aren’t taking anything for granted
David Brien
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October 7, 2016
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Seven months away from hosting Canada’s National Midget Championship, the Cariboo Cougars are off to a roaring start to the 2016-17 season with the team out to prove they’re serious TELUS Cup contenders.

With two weekends down in the B.C. Major Midget League (BCMML), the Cougars sit atop the standings with a perfect 4-0 record, and a terrific +21 goal differential (25 goals for, four goals against); after 8-2 and 6-0 road wins over the Kootenay Ice to open their schedule, the Cougars travelled south to Richmond, B.C., for the annual BCMML showcase, and topped the North Island Silvertips 3-0 and 8-2.

Quick starts and strong regular seasons are nothing new to the Cougars, who have finished in the top two in the BCMML during the regular season seven times in the last 10 years, including first-place finishes in 2006-07 and 2014-15.

But after losses in the BCMML final in four of the last six seasons, including the past two, Cariboo is ready to take the next step – the first towards a first-door entrance into the TELUS Cup.

“We’ve been so close over the last couple of years – we’ve been three or four games away from actually going to the TELUS Cup,” says head coach Trevor Sprague, the reigning BCMML coach of the year. “So we feel that with our more experienced and older guys that we have a chance to get there, as long as we stay healthy.”

The team has a major portion of its core returning in 2016-17; forwards Daine Dubois, Reid Perepeluk, Mason Richey, Devin Sutton and Trey Thomas, as well as defencemen Logan Archer, Jeremy Gervais, Joel Patsey and Jesse Pomeroy – who will wear the ‘C’ as captain – are all back.

The team also has a trio of affiliated players from last season who have graduated to full-time status; forwards Darian Long and Craig MacDonald, and defenceman Jarin Sutton.

In between the pipes, Cariboo will turn to sophomore goaltender Marcus Allen – who helped the Cougars allow a franchise-low 76 goals last season – and 6-foot-5 rookie Zach Wickson.

“At the start of every season for the Cariboo Cougars, the goal is to get to the TELUS Cup,” says Sprague, who is in his ninth season behind the bench. “With the experienced guys that we have, we’re aiming to win gold. We don’t really like winning silver; we’ve won enough of those.

“Our leadership is second to none from what I’ve seen in past years. Guys want to make sure that they’re ready and playing playoff hockey to get prepared for the TELUS Cup.”

The Cougars also added a couple of new bodies, picking up Myles Mattila, a veteran player who played two seasons with Cariboo before spending last season with the Okanagan Rockets, and Hunter Floris, who led Kootenay in scoring in 2015-16.

Those two players should help an offence that finished with the third-most goals in the BCMML last season, despite failing to put a single player among the top 20 in league scoring.

And Cariboo could get better. How? A few players are still in Western Hockey League camps.

While forward Josh Maser (Prince Albert Raiders) and defenceman Jonas Harkins (Prince George Cougars) should rejoin Cariboo after being reassigned by their respective WHL teams, forwards Ty Kolle (Portland Winterhawks) and Ethan O'Rourke (Prince George Cougars) are still playing Major Junior.

The Cougars are looking to end more than one long drought this season; in addition to never having won the BCMML championship, Cariboo is trying to become the first host team since the Calgary Northstars in 1991 to win Canada’s National Midget Championship, and the first B.C. team since 1982 to be the country’s best.

Next April will mark 35 years since the Burnaby Winter Club Travellers – led by future NHLer Cliff Ronning – won the lone national title for Canada’s westernmost province.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
[email protected]

 

Spencer Sharkey
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
[email protected]

 

Katie Macleod
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-284-6427
Mobile: 403-612-2893
[email protected]

 

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