Brett Fudger is a rarity among Cariboo Cougars hockey players, past and present.
He grew up in Prince Rupert, a city whose minor hockey talent pool the Cougars have tapped just twice before.
That Prince Rupert pipeline paid off in a big way for the Cougars over the weekend in their B.C. Hockey Major Midget League series and it helped drain the life out of the North Island Silvertips at Kin 1.
The 16-year-old Fudger flashed the scoring touch the Cougars knew was in him when they added him to the roster over the summer. He scored two goals and added an assist in a 10-2 triumph Saturday and also scored in the Cougars' 6-2 win over the Silvertips in Sunday's rematch.
"It's different than being back home, it's a lot faster here and skill-wise it's a lot higher - I have good guys in the dressing room to be with and I'm very happy to be here," said Fudger.
"With those points (Saturday) I've gotten that off my shoulder and I've gotten more comfortable with my linemates (Lane Goodwin and Tanner Bahm). We've got good chemistry and we seem to be putting points up on the board now."
Fudger started out last season with the Prince Rupert Tier 4 midgets, then moved to Vancouver Island to play to the Tier 1 midget team in Comox. Defenceman Hayden Long (2008-09) and forward Kale Burns (2009-10) were the only other Prince Rupert players to suit up for the major midget Cougars before Fudger arrived.
"It's maybe taken him a few games to get going but he's catching up to the speed right now and his game is there," said Cougars head coach Tyler Brough. "He's got a good accurate shot and when he gets it off it usually finds the net. We're patient with him and we're expecting bigger things from him and he's making the right steps in the right direction.
"A lot of these guys haven't been away from home or are a long way from home and they're not adults, they're teenagers, going to a new school, new billets, and I think he's responded well."
After a scrappy, one-sided affair Saturday night that boiled over into a fight that led to suspensions, the teams stuck to hockey Sunday, much to the delight of Brough, who knows the consequences of players who drop their gloves in anger. He was without defenceman Max Arnold for Sunday's game after he was handed a suspension, along with Silvertips centre Frank Davis, when they decided to duke it out with two minutes left in Saturday's game.
"We were kind of stressing after last night we wanted to stay away from that stuff, it doesn't benefit us at all - there's no fighting in midget hockey and we're probably going to be missing (Arnold) for two or three games for fighting in a 10-2 game," said Brough.
"I was pretty proud of our guys today, for the most part they stuck to hockey and that's what we have to do to move forward and get better every day."
Fudger and Mason Richey, with two goals each, stoked the offence for the Cougars Saturday. Brendan Pigeon and Grady Thomas each finished with a goal and two assists while Goodwin and Craig MacDonald also scored. Davis and Joshua Zary were the North Island goalscorers.
Cougar goalie Ryan Buchan faced just 15 shots in the first game, while Jackson Glassford had 38 shots fired his way. The shot count was similar Sunday - 37-15 for the Cougars. Marcus Allen was the Cariboo goalie Sunday facing Glassford.
On Sunday the Cougars led 2-1 after one period and 4-1 after two. Forwards Fudger and Hunter Floris scored in the first period and defencemen Zack Minaker and Brennan Malgunas doubled the lead in the second period. Brandon Rowley and Richey scored late in the game. Brett Arnett and Ethan Jones scored for North Island.
A born-and-bred P.G. boy, the 17-year-old Malgunas is in his second major midget season. Through eight games, he leads all Cougar defencemen in scoring with a goal and three assists and appears heading on the track to play junior hockey, having already been through two BCHL camps with the Spruce Kings. As good as he is at creating offense and getting his shot on net, he's rarely caught out of position and excels in making life difficult for opponents trying to set up in front of the net.
"I think I just have bigger expectations, I think I'm a guy who can be relied on and that puts more pressure on me but it also makes it more exciting, more fun," Malgunas said. "Playing with (junior) guys, it's a lot faster, more physical, so when you come down here it kind of slows down time a bit and gives you more space and room and the physicality is easier."
The win improved the Cougars' record to 5-2-1-0. North Island dropped to 2-5-1. Cariboo is trying to stay in the league's top-five to try to lock up an invitation to play in the prestigious Mac's tournament in Calgary in late December. They now sit fourth in the standings.
"This early in the season that's everything for us, that's our main goal and we need the wins," said Malgunas.