Evidently, youth won't be a deterrent for the Coast Inn of the North Cougars.
The Cougars, a midget Tier 1 rep team from the Prince George Minor Hockey Association, have just a handful of 17-year-olds in their lineup this season but made a statement when they skated to a pair of convincing wins against the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy on the weekend. Saturday night at the Elksentre, the Cats beat Pursuit 7-2. And, the next morning at Kin 2, the Cougars prevailed 6-2.
Seventeen is the upper age limit in midget hockey.
"We've got four or five 17-year-olds and the rest are younger guys and they all work hard," said Coast Inn head coach Jason Garneau. "They're learning what I'm expecting of them as far as our systems and team play and work ethic and all that type of stuff. It worked out well for us on the weekend."
Garneau said Pursuit was missing a couple of its better players but added that the Cats "were definitely full value for the effort and for both wins."
The Cougars and POE -- which is based in Kelowna -- compete in the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association. The Cats play in the southern league because they are the only midget Tier 1 club in the north central region. The weekend games were the first of the regular season for the Cats.
Coast Inn appears to be strong despite the fact the Cariboo Cougars of the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League have 14 Prince George players on their roster. The PGMHA also has midget Tier 2 and Tier 3 rep teams this season.
"It speaks well for the work that the coaches have been doing and the minor hockey association has been doing in developing players in Prince George," Garneau said.
On offence this season, the Cougars should get contributions from throughout their lineup but three of their big gunners will likely be 17-year-olds Michael Bhatoa, Riley Hawes and Derek Bulmer. On defence, two of the emerging leaders are Carson Stephen and Jordan Low. And, in goal, the Cats plan to lean equally on 16-year-olds Mitch Profeit and Riley Druskin.
The team is rounded out by forwards Austin Gray, Thane Anderson, Cole Morris, Justin Schwing, Markus Plamondon, Treavor Gagne, Brogan O'Brien and Isaiah Berra and by defencemen Nathan Powar, Todd Bredo, Zach Schlitt and Kyle Serup.
Assistant coaches are Josh Garneau and former Prince George Spruce Kings forward Sam Muchalla. Ron Powar is the trainer and Marcel Profeit is the manager.
The Coast Inn club has already attended one tournament this season. Two weekends ago in Kamloops, the Cats compiled a 2-2 record, with wins against Langley (4-2) and Kelowna (5-4) and losses to Juan de Fuca (2-0) and Abbotsford (6-2).
The Cougars will play two more league games this weekend, both against Kelowna. The teams will face off Saturday (6:45 p.m.) at Kin 3 and Sunday (9:45 a.m.) at the Elksentre.
The Cougars will host a tournament Nov. 23-25.