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Cougars' Mark Lamb wins two WHL awards

Fifth-year head coach and general manager took over Prince George team in 2018
Prince George Cougars GM and head coach Mark Lamb has been named the WHL's coach of the year and won the league's executive award.

Mark Lamb just made Prince George history.

Wednesday morning the 59-year-old Prince George Cougars head coach has been named winner of the Dunc McCallum Memorial Award as the Western Hockey League’s coach of the year.

Later Wednesday the league announced Lamb has been chosen for the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Ward as WHL executive of the year.

It’s the first time a Cougar has won either award in the team’s 30 years in Prince George.

About the coaching award, Lamb had this to say:

“I’m very honoured to receive this award, it’s totally a team award,” said Lamb.

“It just means you have a really good team, a lot of good players, and you have a great coaching staff. With the addition of Jim Playfair and Carter Rigby and (goalie coach) Taylor Dakers we have a really tight group and they all have a lot of say so for acknowledging this award and winning this award, it goes to a lot of people.”

In his fifth season at the helm as head coach and general manager, Lamb guided the Cougars to a 49-15-1-3 record – their best in 30 seasons since the franchise moved north from Victoria. The Cats captured their second B.C Division flag and won their first-ever Western Conference regular season title.

Prince George was league’s second-highest scoring team with 316 goals and had the WHL’s second-stingiest defence, allowing just 187 goals. Their power play (30,.1 per cent) and penalty-killing (84.3 per cent) efficiencies ranked second in the WHL.

The Cougars also posted the WHL’s best road record – 24-8-0-2.

Coaches Mike Johnston (Portland Winterhawks), Willie Desjardins (Medicine Hat Tigers) and Brennan Sonne (Saskatoon Blades) were also McCallum award nominees.

As Cougars GM, Lamb was recognized for building the Cougars into a final four contenders this season, while utilizing the trade market to acquire several key players.

Last year he added Zac Funk in a deadline deal from Calgary. This year Funk finished second in the WHL scoring race with 123 points and led the league the league with 67 goals.

Last summer Lamb swung a deal to pick up winger Oren Shtrom and at mid-season he added centre Matteo Danis and winger Borya Valis, all of whom have made major contributions to the Cougars’ success.

A year ago in April he signed free agent goalie Joshua Ravensbergen, who went on to post six shutouts in the season. He also has three playoff shutouts and has emerged as one of the league’s top goalies.

The Cougars also added 2021 WHL draft pick Terik Parascak who scored 42 goals and had 105 points in his rookie season.

I’m proud to receive the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy,” Lamb said. “There’s a lot of people that put in a lot of hard work to get this. When I look at all our scouts, led by Bob Simmonds, finding the players to put into our lineup. It’s been a few years of building this so the acknowledgement that I’m getting, I just want to pass it on to the scouts.

“You don’t win this without good players. You don’t win this without good staff, and I really want to throw a shout-out to our ownership group who has went through some really lean years here and they never wavered once when you’re trying to make trades and trying to make your team better.”

The other nominees for the Saunders award were:

 Johnston, Chad Leslie (Swift Current Broncos) and Jason Ripplinger (Moose Jaw Warriors).

The Cougars are back on the ice tonight (7 p.m.) in Portland to play the Winterhawks. Prince George trails that best-of-seven series 2-1.

The city is hosting a watch party tonight at CN Centre. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $4.