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Major midgets keep pace for first

The desired destination is first place. The Cariboo Cougars took significant steps in that direction. The Cougars grabbed three of a possible four points from the Greater Vancouver Canadians during a weekend doubleheader in the B.C.

The desired destination is first place. The Cariboo Cougars took significant steps in that direction.

The Cougars grabbed three of a possible four points from the Greater Vancouver Canadians during a weekend doubleheader in the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League. On Saturday, the Cats dumped the Canadians 5-2. Then, on Sunday, the clubs battled to a 2-2 tie. The games were played in Kelowna and moved the third-place Cats to within five points of the Canadians, who are currently on top of the 11-team league.

The Cariboo club also has two games in hand.

"We were very happy with our play this weekend and I think it just proves we're right up there with the best in the league," said Marcus Beesley, a 17-year-old goaltender who was in the crease for both games.

"I think we were a little bit more desperate (than the Canadians on Saturday). With them being in first, they do have a little bit of a cushion. And no matter what the guys try to say in the dressing room to avoid it, there's going to be a lack of desperation there. I thought that was probably the difference because we needed these points badly to avoid slipping down in the standings."

The Cougars bumped their record to 18-8-2. The Canadians now sit at 20-7-3.

The Cougars were in first place earlier this season but slipped back, in part, because of postponed games against the Fraser Valley Bruins. Those contests -- called off when the Fraser Valley team bus crashed on its way to Prince George on Dec. 11 -- will be played Feb. 6-7 in Prince George.

In the Saturday win, Luke Gordon, Jordan Duncan, Tyson McCallum, Chris Allbee and Levon Johnson scored the Cariboo goals and Beesley stopped 32 shots.

On Sunday, the teams were tied 1-1 after two periods. The Canadians moved in front five minutes into the third but 15-year-old blueliner Colton Manning fired a tying goal a few shifts later.

"We talked all week about getting traffic in front of the goaltender's face, not just in front of the net, and the goalie had no chance," said Cariboo assistant coach James Morrison. "He couldn't see anything and Manning just picked the corner over his glove."

Morrison said Sunday's third period was the best of the weekend for the Cougars.

"We were all over them for about 18 of the 20 minutes and the bottom line was we just ran out of time -- we didn't have enough time to score the go-ahead goal," he said.

Gordon was the other Cariboo marksman in the game.

The series was played in Kelowna because that was the site of the MML all-star game on Friday night. The showcase contest saw Team Blue and Team White skate to a 6-6 tie. Six Cariboo players were in uniform and Alex Roach scored the tying goal for Team Blue with 1:05 left to play.

In the skills competition, Roach -- a 16-year-old defenceman from Quesnel -- also won the hardest shot competition. Beesley, meanwhile, won the breakaway challenge when he stopped all four shooters he faced. One of the guys he turned aside was McCallum.

"He tried to fake a shot and go backhand and I poke-checked him," Beesley said. "That was pretty cool."

The Cougars will host the North Island Silvertips this weekend. Games are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday, both at Kin 1.