Cariboo Cats stomp Canadians in playoff opener

The playoffs arrived just in time for the Cariboo Cougars.

They're playing their best hockey of the season and that bodes well for their chances of an extended postseason in the B.C Hockey Major Midget League.

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They opened up their best-of-three quarterfinal series with an 8-2 win over the Greater Vancouver Canadians Friday afternoon at Kin 1 in a game that featured eight different Cariboo goalscorers.

A five-goal outburst in the second period broke open what had been a one-goal game after 20 minutes. The Cougars cashed in a power play with a slow-moving shot through a crowd from Alex Ochitwa early in the second period and pointman Max Arnold made it a 4-1 count with his second goal of the game on another Cariboo power play at the 14:39 mark. On the ensuing face-off, Booker Daniel took the puck at centre from linemate Grady Thomas, skated the length of the ice and roofed a shot in behind goalie Elliott Marshall.

Curtis Hammond and Brennan Bott scored late in the period and the rout was on.

Fischer O'Brien gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead and Joshua Harrison cut the gap for the Canadians on a first-period power play. Van Lupien, for the Canadians, and Jaxon Danilec, for the Cougars, traded goals in the third period.

Xavier Cannon made 24 saves to notch his first career BCHMML playoff victory. The Cougars outshot the Canadians 29-26.

The Cougars (27-8-5) finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak having won eight on their last nine and ended up with 59 points, just one point shy of the regular-season champion Fraser Valley Thunderbirds (29-9-1-1).

Their second-place standing matched the Cougars with seventh-place Canadians (18-16-4-2). Head-to-head against Greater Vancouver the Cougars won two, tied one and lost one. They swept a home set Feb. 23-23 at Kin 1, winning 5-0 and 4-1. The teams skated to a 2-2 Nov. 17 in Richmond and the Canadians took the second game 3-1.

Game 2 of the series is set for

Kin 1 today at 4 p.m. If a third game is needed, that would be played Sunday at Kin 1 starting at 10:30 a.m. In other league quarterfinal matchups this weekend, No. 1 Fraser Valley hosts No. 8 Valley West Giants in Abbotsford, No. 3 Vancouver Northeast Chiefs are at home in Burnaby to face No. 6 Vancouver Northwest Hawks and No. 4 Okanagan Rockets take on No. 5 Thompson Blazers in Kelowna.

Minor midgets

The Cariboo Cougars minor midget team reached the end of its inaugural season last weekend in Abbotsford, losing a semifinal 2-1 series to the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.

The Cougars won the first game 5-4 in overtime on a goal from Jaydon Merritt, then lost to the T-birds, 3-2 and 5-4. The Cougars placed third in the regular season with a 14-10-1-5 record, then swept their quarterfinal series two weekends ago against the Greater Vancouver Canadians, winning both games 5-4.

Northern Capitals

The Northern Capitals of Prince George are preparing for their B.C. Hockey Triple-A Female Midget League quarterfinal playoff series next weekend in Langley against the Fraser Valley Rush.

The Capitals (13-17-2-0) finished third in the five-team league, one point behind the second-place Rush (12-15-5-0). That best-of-three series starts next Friday.

The Capitals lost all three of their final regular-season games in Vancouver to the league-leading Comets (32-0-0-0), who capped off a perfect season. The Comets will play the winner of this weekend's Vancouver Island Seals-Thompson Okanagan Lakers series which started Friday in North Saanich.

North Central Bobcats

The North Central Bobcats of Prince George will host the six-team bantam Tier 1 provincial championship starting Monday at Kin 1. The Bobcats finished second in the Okanagan Mainline Hockey Association standings with a 15-2-3-0 record, tied in points with first-place Thompson.

Coached by Mirsad Mujcin, North Central will take on North Shore Winter Club in the tournament-opener Monday at 10:30 a.m. The Bobcats will also play the Victoria Racquet Club in the nightcap at 7:15 p.m. In other games Monday, Cloverdale faces Victoria at 1:15 p.m. and North Okanagan will play the North East Trackers of Fort St. John. All games are Kin 1.

Each team will play five games. The top two teams meet in the final Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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