Participating in a Canada Winter Games is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, getting to do it in front of a hometown crowd is even more special.
Two members of the Cariboo Cougars will get that opportunity in February when they don the Team BC jersey at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. Forward Justin Almeida and goalie Dorrin Luding were named to the provincial under-16 team on Tuesday and are looking forward to the opportunity to defend the gold medal BC won four years ago in Halifax.
"This is a dream to play on Team BC," Almeida said. "I'm really excited, but also nervous. When I heard the word it was a big relief."
The selection process for Team BC has been months in the making and Luding said the extra coaching he's received along the way has helped his game.
"I was getting quite a lot of feedback from the coaches and the goalie coaches," he said. "They were telling me what I had to work on, and I looked that that feedback and started working on those things and there's been an improvement."
Six other players on the 20-player Team BC roster play in the BC Major Midget League. Both Luding and Almeida said playing against older boys this season has helped them develop and will help them prepare for the national stage.
"Our practice habits here are very good and we have a fast team," Almedia said of the Cariboo Cougars. "The league is fast and you have to be able to adjust and in a short tournament like the Canada Winter Games, you have to adjust quickly so playing (in the BC Major Midget League) will help me."
Star players like Sidney Crosby and Paul Kariya used the Canada Games as a step along their hockey journey, which puts Almeida and Luding in elite company. Both players expect some nerves leading up to the tournament, but at the same time they're excited for the chance to test themselves against the top players in the country in their age category.
"It's going to be nerve wracking having all the fans and all the scouts there," Luding said. "But mentally I'm going to focus on my game."
The male hockey tournament will take place during the second week of the Games, with matches at CN Centre and Kin 2.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2014 03:30
The Cariboo Cougars are the class of the BCMML, at least for the time being. The Cats solidified their grasp on the league's number one spot with a pair of wins over the second place Vancouver Northwest Giants.
On Sunday, Colton Thomas scored twice in the second period as the Cariboo Cougars defeated the Vancouver NW Giants 4-1 on Sunday morning at Kin 1.
Wesley Shipton and Steven Jandric also scored for the Cougars and Dorrin Luding made 31 saves, including 17 in the first period alone.
Ryland Chernomaz scored the lone goal for the Giants.
The win, combined with Saturday's 5-1 win over the Giants, gives the Cougars (15-2-1) a seven-point cushion over the second-place Giants (12-4-0).
Thomas broke a 1-1 tie at 4:54 of the second when he slid a shot past Giants goalie Beck Warm. The puck came to Thomas after Austin Gray partially fanned on his attempt to capitalize on the scrambley play in front of the Giants net. Jandric also picked up a helper.
The Cougars extended their lead at 9:58 when Thomas tipped a Zack Smith shot over Warm's shoulder. Darren Hards also got an assist on the power-play tally.
A pair of Giants penalties late in the second gifted the Cougars a lengthy 5-on-3 and they capitalized early in the third with a second left in the second infraction. Jandric tipped in a Gray shot,with Hards once again setting up the point man.
The game got off to a wild start, with both teams scoring in the first 90 seconds. Chernomaz gave the Giants the early lead at the 37 second mark, banking a pass off the skate of a Cougars' defender and past Luding. The home side responded at 1:24 when Shipton turned and fired a high shot past Warm from the slot with a lot of traffic in front of the net.
Luding was called upon to make a handful of big saves early on as the Cougars killed three penalties in the first to get out of the opening period on even terms. The Giants went 0/7 on the power play for the game, while the Cougars converted twice in their seven attempts.
Warm made 23 saves for the Giants.
The Cougars have a bye next weekend but return to Kin 1 for another tough test when then Okanagan Rockets visit Prince George on Nov. 29 and 30.
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 November 2014 22:00
The Cariboo Cougars solidified top spot in the BC Major Midget League on Saturday evening with a 5-1 win over the Vancouver NW Giants at Kin 1.
A hat trick of goals by Austin Gray, along with singles from Colton Thomas and Darren Hards powered the Cougars to the win over their perennial rivals in the first of four meetings between the two teams during the regular season. Josh Latta replied for the Giants.
The Cougars improve to 14-2-1 on the year and will look for the weekend sweep when they host the Giants (12-3-0) at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday at Kin 1.
Dorrin Luding made 27 saves for the Cougars, including a great blocker stop in the first and some nice pad saves down low in the second to record the win.
Gray gave the Cougars the lead late in the first period when he blocked a shot on the penalty kill, out skated the other Giants defenceman to the loose puck in the neutral zone for a clear cut breakaway. His shot low on the glove side beat Giantd starter David Tendeck at 18:06
Thomas made it 2-0 just 1:16 into the second with a picture perfect deflection into the top corner from just inside the right face-off circle in the offensive zone. Steven Jandric and Zack Smith picked up the assists.
Brendan Moore had a great chance to extend the lead midway through the stanza when he stole the puck at his own blue-line and streaked towards the Giants' net, but his shot rang off the post.
The Cougars kept pouring on the offence and Hards made it 3-0 converting a great feed from Justin Almeida at 15:41. Almeida gained the Giants zone with speed, but slowed down just enough to allow the trailing Hards to get into scoring position and then dropped the puck back to his linemate.
Giants goalie Beck Warm entered the game after the Hards goal in relief of Tendeck.
Gray got his second of the game at the three-minute mark of the second, collecting a loose puck from behind the Giants' net and jamming it past warm. Jandric and Thomas got the helpers.
Latta spoiled Luding's shutout bid with a power-play goal with seven minutes to play. Clint Colbourne and Callahan Brebner got the assists.
Gray completed the hat trick at 18:03 into an empty net. Jandric got the play started, generating a turnover in the Cougars zone. He had a good look at the empty net himself, but chose to feed his linemate instead and finished with three assists.
Warm and Tendeck combined for 27 saves for the Giants.
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 November 2014 03:28
Justin Almeida scored a natural hat rick in the first 13 minutes of the opening period and the Cariboo Cougars cruised to an 8-1win over the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds on Saturday at CN Centre.
Almeida added one more for good measure in the third, Chase DuBois added a pair of goals in the second, Keith Redden scored on a penalty shot and Myles Mattila closed out the scoring.
Nate Castonguay of the Thunderbirds broke up Cougars' goalie Griffen Outhouse's shutout bid midway through the third. Outhouse finished with 24 saves for the win.
After Almeida opened the scoring eight minutes in the game, he proceeded to pot a pair less than a minute apart giving the Cougars a three-goal lead before the game was 13 minutes old. Darren Hards assisted on the first two goals and DuBois picked picked up a helper on the first one.
Almeida's last two goals couldn't have been more different. On the first he took a feed from Hards and snapped a quick shot from the slot just under the crossbar. He jammed the second goal home after a turnover deep in Thunderbirds territory for a unassisted marker.
The Cougars penalty killers were tested in the latter half of the period, first killing off a two-man disadvantage for 1:23 then keeping the Thunderbirds off the scoresheet during a major penalty levied against Brendan Moore for a check from behind. In all the Cougars killed eight penalties on Saturday.
DuBois shone in the middle stanza, scoring twice as the Cougars peppered Thunderbirds goalie Paul Tucek with 18 shots in the period and 46 in the game.
Redden made it 6-0 a penalty shot after getting hooked on a breakaway after stepping out of the penalty box serving a two many men on the ice penalty. Redden actually got a shot away on the initial breakaway, fighting through the hook, and put the rebound in the net but the whistle for the penalty shot had sounded.
On the penalty shot, Redden went wide to his left and tucked a low shot past Tucek.
Almeida added his fourth in the final period, the only power-play goal of the afternoon for Cariboo. Mattila scored his first late in the third.
The two teams play again on Sunday at 1:15 p.m.at CN Centre.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 02:29
- This past weekend the Cariboo Cougars journeyed to Chase to faceoff against the Thompson Blazers. After a sluggish start, letting in a goal just 21 seconds in, Saturdays game ended up a 5 - 2 win for us. Todd Bredo ended up with 2 shorthanded goals, while Alex Hanson, Steven Jandric, and Colton Thomas also added markers in the game. Dorrin Luding earned the win between the pipes.
- Sunday came with an explosion of goals. Once again the Blazers drew blood first but the Cougars netted 11 goals to take the game 11-2. 4 different players hit the back of the net twice: Austin Gray, Colton Thomas, Brendan Moore, and Justin Almeida, while Chase DuBois, Darren Hards, and Mitchell Williams added the remaining 3 markers. Affiliate goalie Jake Sweet landed his first BCMML win in the game on Sunday.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 22:39