Cougars top Giants in last Major Midget League game until new year
The Cat outsized the Giant on Sunday.
The Cariboo Cougars defeated their biggest rivals in convincing fashion, blanking the Vancouver North West Giants 4-0 at the Coliseum. The B.C. Major Midget League victory was satisfying for a hockey team that's fallen short against the Giants on several occasions the past few seasons.
The triumph also helped the Cougars put a 6-2 loss to the Giants in the first half of the doubleheader behind them.
"We bounced back good. It was all around a good team effort," Cariboo head coach Trevor Sprague said shortly after the victory. "We were able to utilize all four of our lines. There are coaches in our league who aren't able to coach that way and they only rely on their top two lines, and we're able to play four lines, and that's exactly what I was talking about. Everybody has to play their role and do their job, and work hard. We need to be a physical team and when we're not physical, teams take the game to us. We didn't let them take the game to us."
Nathan Warren stood tall in the Cariboo goal, recording 24 saves for the win. The goose egg gave him his league-leading sixth shutout of the season.
"It was probably my favourite one out of all of them for sure," said Warren, a 17-year-old Prince George product in his second season with the team. "I'll remember that and I'm just going to have to keep playing like that and hopefully keep beating them. It's a pretty good feeling."
The victory earned the Cougars a split in the weekend doubleheader, the Giants skating to a 6-2 win on Saturday at CN Centre. In that game, Braiden Epp scored both Cariboo goals.
The Cougars enter the league's Christmas break with a record of 18 wins, six losses and zero ties (18-6-0). With 24 of their 40 regular-season games complete, they sit third in the 11-team BCMML standings with 36 points. Sunday's defeat was only the second of the season for the Giants, who lead the way with a 20-2-2 record. The second-place Okanagan Rockets are two points behind with an 18-2-4 mark.
League action doesn't resume until the new year. The Cougars' next two-game set is scheduled for Jan. 5 and 6, a CN Centre doubleheader against the Valley West Hawks.
Logan Styler led the Cariboo squad on Sunday with a pair of goals. Braiden Epp and Kirk Hards also scored.
"It was pretty high tempo. Our team is pretty excited. We haven't had too much success against these guys this year," said Styler, a 16-year-old Prince George forward. "But considering we came today, did what the coaches did, just stuck to our game plan. Everybody was just pretty much ecstatic after the win. I haven't seen smiles on some of the kids faces in the last couple of weekends, and then everybody was just lit up today like a light bulb."
Sunday's feelings of joy are understandable considering the history between the rivals. Hockey fans in Prince George are fully aware of the Giants' success over the Cariboo squad the last few years. They've topped the Cougars in each of the last three BCMML championship series. In their first two-game set of the 2012-13 season, Oct. 13 and 14 at the Langley Events Centre, the Giants swept the Cats with wins of 4-3 and 6-5. Those meetings were part of a league showcase weekend.
Warren gave credit to his teammates in front of him on Sunday.
"They played awesome. They helped me out lots and they were clearing rebounds, they were just blocking shots. It was just a whole team effort. It was awesome."
Although they're on a hiatus from league action, the Cariboo Cougars' holiday season isn't without games. On Christmas morning, Tuesday, they head to Calgary for the prestigious Mac's Tournament. The international midget rep competition, which features some of the top organizations from throughout Western Canada, runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
The Cougars will also play hit the ice against former members of the team during their alumni game on Sunday at CN Centre.