Depth paid dividends for the Cariboo Cougars in a 5-1 Sunday win against the Valley West Giants.
The Cougars controlled much of the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League contest even though they were missing a couple of key forwards. On the ice at Kin 1, the Cats got two goals each from Jaydon Merritt and Kellan Brienen, who sparked the team offensively in the absence of top-liner Alex Ochitwa (hand injury) and team captain John Herrington, who sat out so he could skate with the junior A Prince George Spruce Kings later on Sunday.
“It’s great to have some other guys step up – that’s what we should always have,” said the 16-year-old Merritt, whose first goal of the contest proved to be the game-winner. “Even if our top guys are out of the lineup we’ve always got to find a way to win.”
The Cougars led 1-0 after the first period and 4-1 after the second.
Brienen opened the scoring with the lone goal of the first. His wrister from the right faceoff circle, off a slick drop pass from Devan Minard, beat Giants goaltender Mason Beaupit cleanly.
In the second, the Giants tied the score 1-1 on a goal by Isaiah Colina but Merritt responded 34 seconds later off a backdoor pass from defenceman Mathew Magrath and that swung momentum in favour of the home team. The Cougars kept the pressure on and were rewarded when Brienen netted his second of the game a little more than a minute after the Merritt marker. Brienen was parked at the left side of the net and knocked in a rebound after Carter Yarish started the play with a shot from the right boards.
“I definitely wasn’t happy after the first (period) and we went in (to the dressing room) and they tied it up (at 7:04 of the second) and I thought that kind of woke us up and we took control after that,” said Cougars head coach Tyler Brough.
Before the second period was done, the Cougars extended their lead to 4-1 while on a power play. Merritt notched his second of the afternoon when he hopped on a rebound off the back boards and deposited the puck into the open right side of the net.
“We had a few opportunities on the power play and we finally capitalized on one,” Brough said. “Our power play has been pretty cold of late. We’ve been working on a few things. We’ve got a few guys out of the lineup and some call-ups and stuff but we’re moving in the right direction. We’re getting wins, that’s what it’s all about, and our compete level I think is going up.”
Landon Ingham capped the scoring for the Cougars in the third period.
In the nets, Jordan Fairlie stopped 20 of 21 Valley West shots and picked up the victory.
The Cougars, meanwhile, generated 34 shots on losing goaltender Beaupit.
Forwards Scott Cousins and Linden Makow – normally members of the minor midget Cougars – were up with the major club on Sunday and also on Saturday, when the Cats edged the Giants 1-0. Cousins scored the only goal of the game in the third period when he worked his way into the slot and put home a backhander through traffic.
Cousins leads the minor midget league with 32 points in 12 games. His Saturday winner came in his first appearance at the major level and put a smile on his face.
“It was cool – definitely cool to score in front of the hometown crowd,” Cousins said. “I was just playing my game and I got rewarded, which was nice. The kids were all really good to me in the dressing room, really welcoming, so I felt confident. I knew that I could play up there.”
Fairlie turned away 21 shots in the Saturday win. The shutout was his second of the season. With two victories on the weekend, Fairlie is now 10-4-1-0 and has a 1.97 goals-against average.
The Cougars elevated their record to 14-4-1-1 and the Giants dropped to 3-10-2-5.
The Cats will be back on the road next weekend, in Kamloops for a doubleheader against the Thompson Blazers. The Cougars will then have a bye weekend and will finish off their pre-Christmas schedule with Dec. 21-22 games in Saanich against the South Island Royals.
During the Christmas break, the Cougars will be in Calgary for the prestigious Mac’s AAA Midget Tournament. Games start on Boxing Day and the championship final will face off on New Year’s Day.
The Northern Capitals finally got a chance to play at home and put on a show against the Vancouver Island Seals.
The Capitals won all three games of a weekend set and, in doing so, kept the Seals winless on the B.C. Hockey Female Midget Triple-A League season. The hosts skated to a 4-2 victory on Sunday, beat the Seals 4-1 on Saturday and were dominant in a 6-0 triumph on Friday.
The Caps used the victories to move to 9-6-1-0. The Seals dropped to 0-19-0-0.
In Sunday’s series finale, Brette Kerley paced the Northern Capitals with a pair of goals and also added an assist. Paige Outhouse and Pyper Alexander also scored for the Capitals, who were up 2-1 after the first period and 3-2 after the second. Alexander’s insurance marker was into an empty net with 3:09 left to play in the third.
Cadence Petitclerc-Crosby (Capitals) and Rachel Lee (Seals) were the goaltenders.
On Saturday, the Capitals started quickly and had a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period thanks to goals by Destiny Bautista, Hailey Armstrong and Keagan Goulet. Elissa Benjamin of the Seals and Maria Ayre of the Caps (on a power play) exchanged goals in the second period and the third was scoreless.
Petitclerc-Crosby was also the winning goaltender on Saturday, while Cassandra Butler was on the wrong end of the score.
In Friday’s game, the Capitals scored twice in the opening 20 minutes and erupted for four goals in the second period. Kerley (2), Ayre, Moore, Armstrong and Goulet did the damage offensively. Armstrong also had two assists for a three-point outing.
In the nets, Tessa Sturgeon blanked the Vancouver Island shooters. Lee was the losing goaltender.
The games were the final ones in the Capitals’ 2019 portion of the regular schedule. They won’t play again until Jan. 10 when they meet the Seals in Coquitlam. Also in Coquitlam that weekend, the Capitals will take on the Greater Vancouver Comets and the Thompson Okanagan Lakers.
The North Central bantam double-A Bobcats took three of four points from OMAHA South during weekend home games.
The Bobcats and OMAHA South skated to a 4-4 deadlock on Sunday at Kin 2, after a 4-3 Bobcats victory on Saturday at CN Centre.
The Bobcats did all of their Sunday scoring on power plays. In the game, Hunter Potskin and Callas Pierce each scored twice. Pierce also had a helper for a three-point game. The Bobcats were ahead 4-2 in the third period but surrendered a pair of goals in the last 10 minutes.
Brady Mackay was in goal for North Central.
On Saturday, Jayden Cunningham of the Bobcats scored the winner with 1:15 left to play. Jake Phillips-Watts, Chase Harrington and Ethan Hamilton also pulled the trigger for the home team.
Navann Lamarre was the winning goaltender.
The Bobcats are now 2-7-1-0 this season. OMAHA South improved to 1-7-2-0.
The major bantam Cariboo Cougars were closing in on their sixth victory of the season on Sunday in Abbotsford but the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds had other plans.
With time ticking down in the third period and the Cougars clinging to a 2-1 lead, Hayden Hall of the Thunderbirds tied the score at the 18:08 mark. The game went to overtime and the T-birds ended it on a goal by Nicholas Peebles.
Caleb Poitras had the Cougars up 1-0 after the second period. Hall scored an equalizer at 7:05 of the third and then Ryan Toor gave the Cats the lead again with a goal at the 12:59 mark.
The Cougars earned a point for the overtime loss.
Jaiden Jakubowski was between the pipes for the Cougars and Jonathan Mao was the goaltender of record for the Thunderbirds.
On Saturday, the T-birds beat the Cougars 4-2. In that one, Fraser Valley led 3-2 heading into the third period and Ryan Pretty gave his club an insurance goal at 12:40 of the final frame.
Nathan Prodanuk scored twice in the first period for the T-birds and the Cats replied with goals by Dylan Ilett and Miguel Marques in the second before Hall gave the home team the edge going into the last 20 minutes.
Jason Roth was the winning goaltender and Damien Knackstedt took the loss.
This season, the Cougars now sit at 5-7-0-2. The T-birds improved to 7-6-0-1.