Carson Bolduc is proof good things come to those who wait.
The Prince George Cougars rookie is coming off his best Western Hockey League game Tuesday, notching his first major junior goal before potting the shootout winner in a 4-3 victory over the visiting Regina Pats.
"It took a while but I finally got it in," said the Cougars only 16-year-old. "It was a great moment."
It took Bolduc until his 20th game to finally get his first goal, having played six games with the Cougars last season, but it was a beauty off the face off where he looked like a veteran, kicking the puck up to his stick as he skated into the slot and slipping it past Pats goalie Matt Hewitt on the backhand. As the youngest member of the Cougars team, Bolduc found himself a healthy scratch quite a bit at the start of the season but since cracking the lineup he's been opportunistic.
"I just worked hard in practice and when the injuries came I stepped up, I think I've done a pretty good job so we'll have to see how [coach] sees it," said the native of Salmon Arm. "[Cougars coach Dean Clark] told me to keep working hard in practice and it's paying off."
The Cougars' injury bay is starting to clear up but Bolduc has, at least for now, carved himself a place in the starting rotation when the team plays in Victoria against the Royals (12-11) tonight and Saturday. It's the first two meetings of the season between the B.C. division rivals - the teams meet again for two games, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, at CN Centre - with eight crucial points on the line as the Cougars (8-11-1-3) battle to move up in the western conference.
"He's going to stay in the lineup that's just the way it is," said Clark about Bolduc. "He's done enough to stay in there. He's getting more confident as he plays more games. They'll be other guys that haven't been as sharp. Carson has certainly taken a step here."
Bolduc, and 15-year-old Brad Morrison, both scored their first WHL goals in Tuesday's win while sophomore Jarrett Fontaine scored his third goal of the season. After struggling to score goals the Cougars have scored seven in their last two games.
"We had lots of opportunities and dominated them, I thought for the majority of the game," said Clark. "That's the style of game I want to play with lots of shots and lots of end zone time. Hopefully we can continue [the scoring] trend and play really well here in the next little bit and get some points."
Tuesday's shootout win over the Pats was the first time in November the Cougars hit the win column, though they did earn points in a pair of games against the Kamloops Blazers and one against the Vancouver Giants by going to the shootout. The Cats last win, in a shootout, was Oct. 27 against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
After playing top WHL teams like the Blazers and Edmonton Oil Kings in November, the Cougars schedule appears to ease up in the next few weeks. After the four games with the Royals, the Cougars host the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos before wrapping up the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with three games against the Giants - Dec. 14 in Vancouver before the teams hop on the bus for a pair of games (Dec. 15 and 16) in Prince George. The Cats also have a mini-weekend road trip against division rivals in Kamloops and Kelowna.
Clarks said he'd like to see the rest of the Cats be as opportunistic as Bolduc has been.
"Every game you've got to treat as an individual game and you want to have success every time you play," said Clark. "We will see how all that works out."
Life will be sweet for the Cats if things work out for them like they have for Bolduc in the past few weeks. Not only has Bolduc potted his first WHL goal and become a mainstay in the the Cougars' lineup, but last week he was named to Team Pacific for the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Quebec from Dec. 27 to Jan. 4.
"It feels good just to be named to the team with the top guys in the western area," said Bolduc about the mixed Alberta/B.C. team. "It's going to be a great experience, I can't wait, hopefully we'll come back with the gold medal."
Team Pacific, with Cougars forward Chase Witala, finished fifth last season in Windsor. Cougars alternate captain Troy Bourke played for Team Pacific in 2011 when they won the bronze medal in Winnipeg.
For Bolduc, playing against international teams won't be new as he spent the summer of 2008, when he was a second-year peewee, in Europe playing teams in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria.
"It was a great experience," said Bolduc. "It was called Team Canada but it was just kids from B.C.