The Cariboo Cougars' quest to be the top team in the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League begins this weekend.
The Cougars, who laid claim to the 2015-16 regular-season crown with a 29-8-3 record, then lost to the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs in the playoff final, open their new campaign at home at Kin 1. The team hosts the Valley West Hawks from Surrey in a two-game homestand beginning Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
The Hawks finished sixth last regular season before losing to the Chiefs in the quarter-finals.
The Cougars, who also won the prestigious Mac's tournament in Calgary last season, have been rebuilt this year to not only repeat their feats, but to take a run at the 2017 Telus Cup national midget championship, which they're hosting.
General manager and head coach Trevor Sprague finalized the Cats' roster Sunday after the club went 4-1 at a preseason tournament in Kelowna.
"Overall the team is young, fast and big and has a little bit of meanness," said Sprague. "We have a good nucleus of players that we'll need to have for the next few years.
"We're disciplined as well and some things cost us last year and that's not going to happen this year. There was an attitude of selfishness and it was time to deal with it."
The returning veterans include goaltender Dorrin Luding, defencemen Jesse Pomeroy, Chris Jandric, Joel Patsey and forwards Riley Coish, Colton Thomas, and Chase Dubois.
Newcomers include goaltender Aaron Jakubowski, who tended the crease for the Prince George midget Tier 3 team last season; defencemen Logan Archer (Burns Lake), Jonas Harkins, Jeremy Gervais (Prince George); and forwards Tyler Maser (Houston), Reid Perepeluk, Mason Richey (Terrace), Ty Kolle (Quesnel), Daine Dubois (Chase's brother), Tyler Ho, Trey Thomas (Colton's cousin), Darian Long (Prince George) and Ethan O'Rourke.
Harkins, Ho and O'Rourke are Prince George Cougars prospects.
There are still three players who are attending WHL camps and may or may not be back with the Cariboo Cougars. They include Josh Maser, who is at the Prince Albert Raiders camp; goaltender Griffen Outhouse, a Victoria Royals prospect, and Conor MacEachern, who's at the Portland Winterhawks camp.
No matter what happens, Sprague is content with the current roster.
"I'm happy moving forward and we're a puck-pushing hockey team," he said.
After this weekend, the Cougars have four straight road games. They'll travel to Coquitlam to renew acquaintances with the Chiefs on Sept. 26-27 and then are in Richmond to take on the Greater Vancouver Canadians.