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‘This group has some big plans’: Cariboo Cougars eagerly ready to get back to game-play

Head Coach Tyler Brough hopes team’s progression on paper can transition smoothly
Cariboo Cougars practice - March 9, 2020
Cariboo Cougars practice at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in March 2020. (via Kyle Balzer, PrinceGeorgeMatters)

With COVID-19 restart plans coming into full effect for local hockey teams, this has paved the way for organizations to anticipate some form of competition in the near future.

That can be said for the Cariboo Cougars’ U18 AAA club, who, after months of waiting, will take the ice this week, and every other week for the next three months, in a series of exhibition matches while waiting for league-play, if it should come.

Tomorrow (Oct. 2) at a neutral location in 100 Mile House, the Prince George team is set to play a pair of matches against their closest-rival Thompson Blazers as a way to tune-up for the three-month-long Cohort Cup in Abbotsford.

Head Coach Tyler Brough says players and staff are eager to get back to locking horns with another team and seeing what his new 2020-21 roster can really do.

“Looking at our team on paper, we believe with what we have in our camp right now is a really skilled forward group, good puck moving at the back end and three solid goalies. I’m really excited to see what this group can do going from paper to actual on-ice play [because] it’s two different realms. We’re very optimistic with what we have in a line-up, but yet to be seen in a game situation we still have a lot of teaching to do, we still have a lot of team building to do.”

The last competitive contest for the Cariboo Cougars was Sunday, March 1, a 7-3 triumph over the North Island Silvertips.

It’s now been exactly seven months since that final buzzer, but Brough tells PrinceGeorgeMatters the break in-between wasn’t entirely a bad thing for the players.

“These guys are pretty resilient,” he said of his 24-man group, adding he doesn’t think the pause was long enough to build rust.

“They’ve been on the ice quite a bit since we’ve been back, and I think the hunger within for them to compete is even more so there. We’ve got a lot of players from different levels and different teams that they played for last year, there was a lot left on the table. We’re going to keep digging for that and keep working on playing for different things that were left on that table last year. We felt that we made a big statement at the Mac’s last year and we’re hoping to do the same in our playoffs, but we didn’t get the chance. So we’re hungry, we want to play some games, we want to show what we can do this year.”

As the Thompson Blazers elected to not participate in the Cohort Cup, along with four other programs, Cariboo General Manager Trevor Sprague reached out to them to organize the upcoming two-game tilt.

Brough says because every hockey team is having to jump over the same hurdles in all cities in B.C., the team insisted on hosting some game-play while following COVID-19 quarantine rules and protocols.

“Everybody wants to keep everybody safe while doing so,” he explains while also noting the players are also excited to grow as a team after focusing on individual play for several weeks.

“We’re finding different ways to get through some of the teaching that we would normally do differently as far as our talks and video sessions; definitely haven’t done as many as we would have done in previous years, but you know what, everyone’s dealing with it. [...] It’s still a working progress; I think we’re a little behind like everyone else is with what’s going on, but once we get some game-play in and start doing a little bit more team structure, then I think this group has some big plans.”

The Cariboo Cougars’ roster heading down to 100 Mile House is as follows:

GOALTENDERS

  • #1 - Tysen Smith
  • #30 - Kenny Gerow (Returning)
  • #35 - Dawson Smith (Returning)

DEFENCEMEN

  • #2 - Zach Leslie (Returning)
  • #4 - Matyas Mocilac 
  • #7 - Owen Palfreyman (Returning)
  • #8 - Adam Bourgeois 
  • #15 - Jace Norman
  • #24 - Pryce Peats (Returning)
  • #25 - Jordan Lagreca 

FORWARDS

  • #6 - Brady McIsaac 
  • #9 - Landon Ingham (Returning)
  • #10 - Jayden Merritt (Returning)
  • #11 - Kellen Brienen (Returning)
  • #12 - Decker Mujcin 
  • #14 - Fischer O’Brien (Returning)
  • #16 - Scott Cousins 
  • #17 - Chase Pacheco 
  • #18 - Carter Yarish (Returning)
  • #19 - Linden Makow
  • #20 - Max Sanford 
  • #21 - Hayden Smith
  • #22 - Nico Myatovic (Returning)
  • #23 - Caden Brown 

The first of two games against the Blazers at the South Cariboo Recreation Centre goes for 10 a.m. with the second slated for 2 p.m.

Both games will be streamed on Facebook LIVE via the Cariboo Cougars’ page.

The Cohort Cup for the U18s will start Oct. 17, then the Cats will travel south every two weeks afterward until the playoff round starting Dec. 18.

The Cougars’ U15 squad begins its quest for the tournament title with three games at the Abbotsford Centre this weekend.