Chase Dubois is now a protected hockey player.
That doesn't mean the 15-year-old centre gets any special privileges on the ice, as the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds made abundantly clear in their 6-3 win Sunday at the Coliseum over Dubois and the Cariboo Cougars.
But the fact Dubois is on the 50-player protected list of the Prince George Cougars means he's one step closer to his dream of playing in the Western Hockey League, and that's exciting news for the kid from Williams Lake.
"I always wanted to get drafted and listed with a WHL team and to get listed by the Cougars here is a really big confidence boost,'" said for five-foot-seven, 145-pound Dubois. "I was nervous the first day with the team but the boys are good to you, good leaders. We have a great group of guys here and I think we can get to the Mac's tournament, get to playoffs and go far."
With Cougars head coach Mark Holick watching from the stands Sunday morning, Dubois picked a great time to score a highlight-reel goal. The midget Cats were on a two-man power play when Dubois, who scored the winner in Saturday's 2-1 win over T-birds, gathered the puck at his own blueline, turned on the jets and went on a rink-long rush, splitting the defence and finishing with a rooftop wrister past goalie Josh Matzek.
"It's kind of hard to do that at this level but I was coming up the ice with some speed and I saw an opening and I took it," said Dubois. "We dominated them 5-on-5 but some of their power-play goals killed us."
The T-birds took advantage of a string of Cougar penalties and scored three goals on 10 shots in the first period, chasing starting goalie Lane Delfs, who was replaced by Friday's starter Jeremy Matte. Andrew Strelezki and Nicholas Ponak each scored twice Sunday and Josh Matzek made 42 saves in the Fraser Valley net. Justin Bowerman opened the scoring and Strelezki and Austin Wellsby both connected on two-man advantages for the T-birds. Bryan Allbee got the Cougars on the board before the period ended.
Fraser Valley added two more in the second period, the first a backhander by Ponak after a Cougar giveaway at their own blueline. Strelezki made it 5-1 shortly after that and now has 10 goals in just six games. Shots were 44-25 in the Cougars' favour.
"The biggest thing that cost us was we went to the penalty box way too often," said Cariboo Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean. "The referee was calling it [closely] and I had no problem with it, I think we just didn't adjust to it quick enough and all of sudden we were down 3-0 . We had a a real good push and had 20 shots in the third period but those penalties cost us.
"They're a quality hockey team with a lot of size and they have some skill up front. They will have success in this league for sure this season."
The T-birds improved to 2-4-0 as they handed the Cougars (3-1-0) their first loss of the season. Donovan Law scored one in each game and was one of their best players on the ice all weekend. Strelezki had the lone goal Saturday for the T-birds, who were outshot 31-28.
"Our team is getting better and better every week we play and it's showing," said T-birds head coach Bill Grieve. "The other games we didn't quite have a healthy team but we came up here with our 20-player roster, no [affiliated players], and it showed. We could have come out of here with four points but we're very happy with two."