Prior to the Richmond International, the members of the Coast Inn of the North Cougars were shown the provincial rankings for the midget Tier 1 division, as printed in the B.C. edition of Hockey Now.
The Cougars didn't like what they saw. In their view, they should have been much higher than 16th on the list. So, when they stepped on the ice for the 20-team international event, they decided to offer up some proof.
Their bronze-medal performance should do the trick.
At the annual tournament, held Dec. 27-31, the Cats skated to a 5-2 record and their final win -- a 6-1 trouncing of Port Moody in the game for bronze -- had an exclamation point on it. With the medal up for grabs, the Cats were dominant, outshooting Port Moody 49-18.
"We took that [ranking] personally," said Cougars head coach Jason Garneau. "We think we're one of the top teams in the province and I think that result really just reaffirmed to the fellas that when they play a team game they can beat anybody in the province."
The Cats' only two losses -- a 5-1 setback in pool play and another 5-1 defeat in the playoff semifinal round -- came against the Kelowna Rockets, who eventually hoisted the championship trophy. In Monday's final, the Rockets dumped North Delta 4-1.
The Cougars, who range from 15 to 17 in age, started the Richmond International with a 6-5 win against the Alaska Wolves and then recorded 4-1 victories against the Seafair Islanders and Abbotsford Hawks. They completed the round-robin portion of the tournament with the loss to the Rockets.
In the playoff quarterfinals, the Cats had little trouble against Ridge Meadows and skated to a 6-2 win. Then came the semifinal loss to Kelowna and the bounceback win against Port Moody.
"Our team has really bought into the team concept," Garneau said. "We have very good forwards that work hard and even our guys that are there to score the goals, they work extremely hard on the backcheck and in the defensive zone as well. That really helps out our goaltending and our defence. I don't know if I've ever had a team that works this hard collectively."
Offensively, Derek Bulmer paced the Cougars with five goals and 11 points in seven games. Meanwhile, goaltender Mitch Profeit picked up four wins, which tied him for most in the tournament.
Other members of the Cougars are Austin Gray, Cole Morris, Justin Schwing, Markus Plamondon, Treavor Gagne, Michael Bhatoa, Brogan O'Brien, Riley Hawes, Isaiah Berra, Nathan Powar, Todd Bredo, Zach Schlitt, Kyle Serup, Jordan Low, Riley Druskin and Carson Stephen. The 16-year-old Stephen, one of Coast Inn's leaders on the blueline, was unavailable for duty because of a fracture in his hip/pelvis region.
The Cougars are now 25-8-1 on the season and will be back on the ice Jan. 18-20 for league games in Vernon and Kamloops.
n In the midget Tier 2 division of the Richmond International, the LJ Contracting Cougars played to a 3-2 record. The Cats beat California 4-2, lost to Saanich and Vancouver by 2-1 scores, downed Nanaimo 4-1 and defeated Saanich 6-3.