The goal is to play in -- and win -- the Telus Cup national midget hockey championship.
As the Cariboo Cougars take strides toward that objective, they'll be doing it with an abundance of Prince George players in their lineup. The Cougars announced their 20-man roster on Tuesday, and 15 team members are homegrown.
Local forwards on the regional rep team are Tre Potskin, Liam Blackburn, Braiden Epp, Ryan Forbes, Kirk Hards, Donovan Law, Logan Styler and Brad Morrison. Prince George blueliners are Bryan Allbee, Scott Cullen, Nick Headrick, Stephen Penner and Zach Smith. Both goaltenders -- veteran Nathan Warren and newcomer Jeremy Matte -- also hail from P.G.
Trevor Sprague, head coach of the 15- to 17-year-old Cougars, said the makeup of this year's team is a reflection of strong player development within the Prince George Minor Hockey Association and also of the work done by local midget and bantam coaches Chris Bond and Gibby Chasse.
"The minor hockey association needs to be proud of the representation we do have from Prince George and of the job their coaches did," Sprague said. "That's something to be excited about."
By comparison, last year's Cariboo Cats had nine local players in uniform.
The 2012-13 roster is rounded out by forwards Michael Bell (Kitimat), Lien Miller-Jeannotte (Fort St. John), Riley Pettitt (Whitehorse) and Tyler Povelofskie (Williams Lake) and by defenceman Kenny Nordstrom (Terrace).
The Cougars will play a 40-game regular season in the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League. Playoffs will follow, and the eventual B.C. champion will face the Alberta winner in a regional showdown for a Telus Cup berth. The 2013 Telus Cup will be held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in late April.
For the past three seasons, the Cougars have finished second in the regular season and playoffs to the Vancouver Northwest Giants. Sprague likes the chances of this team to knock the Giants off the top rung of the league ladder.
"We've got a lot of grit and character in our lineup," he said. "We have good, common-sense guys who know what they need to do day to day -- guys that don't have excuses when they come into the dressing room. It's kind of interesting. I haven't had that before, where they know how to get a job and how to get it done.
"This year's team, with the [offensive] octane that we have -- and if we can get the goaltending that the team deserves -- I think we can be a No. 1 team," Sprague added. "Everybody's got to contribute and go the right way."
Sprague has already put together a forward unit that he's calling his 'Giant-killer' line. It consists of Potskin, Bell and Miller-Jeannotte, all of whom are in the 200-pound range.
"They're going to give us a lot of power and they'll be able to contribute [offensively] at the same time," Sprague said.
"It's a line that will need to play on that edge that doesn't cost us by putting us in the penalty box. They play with that assertiveness, being able to put the fear of God into teams. We want guys on the other bench to go, 'It's Miller-Jeannotte's line going out next. Coach, we don't want to go out next. Can you send another line?' That's the expectation that we have for that line -- to really play a power game and be power forwards. It's about playing the game of hockey as well but we want a line that's going to have a lot of energy for us."
The Cougars, coming off a 4-1 record in the pre-season, will start their regular schedule Sept. 22 at CN Centre against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds. The Fraser Valley club has taken 'Thunderbirds' as its nickname now that the Victoria-based South Island team has adopted the moniker 'Royals' in recognition of that city's Western Hockey League club.
See Thursday's Citizen for more on the Cariboo Cougars.