As one of the few veterans on a team full of rookies, Cariboo Cougars captain Scott Cullen sees his role as helping many of his teammates adjust to life in the B.C. Major Midget League.
"I've just got to show the guys the ropes," the physical blue-liner said when asked to describe the leadership role he's taken on this year. "I'll echo the coaches a lot, they say a lot of good stuff, we just need to drill the coaches' words into the new guys' heads."
Cullen likes to lead by example on the ice and at practice. He values hard work and said his game is predicated on making the right play at the right time. Although he doesn't rack up huge offensive numbers, his consistent play allows coaches to use him in all situations.
The five-foot-nine, 170-pound Prince George product also likes to inject some energy into the game by throwing his weight around. His open-ice hitting ability was on display two weeks ago when the Cougars hosted Kootenay and Cullen separated two Ice players from the puck with clean checks.
With last year's experience under his belt, Cullen is more confident in his own abilities this year which he said has translated into a more comfortable style of play on the ice.
"It's fun to play with that extra year of confidence underneath me," he said.
Cullen admitted it's been a bumpy start for the Cougars who have grown accustomed to being near the top of the standings, but he's been impressed with how the team has grown over the first phase of the season and is looking forward to big things as the year goes on.
"We'll be good by the time the playoffs come, we'll be ready to go," he said.
The Cougars (6-7-1) are back on home ice this weekend as they host the North Island Silvertips for a pair at the CN Centre. The teams open the set on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. and will meet in the rematch on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:39
There was more of a silver lining than just the medals around the necks of Cariboo Cougars forward Colton Thomas and general manager Trevor Sprague after last week's Western Canada U16 Canada Cup in Calgary.
The two members of the Cougars helped B.C. win silver at the four-team tournament sponsored by the WHL, and just as importantly learned lessons about what it takes to succeed at an elite level.
"I learned how hard you have to work to be a great player," Thomas said this week after rejoining his B.C. Major Midget team at practice. "It's the best feeling you can have, supporting your province and you have a whole bunch of people supporting you."
Thomas said Team B.C. bonded quickly and became friends on and off the ice. Over the coming months Thomas will see many of his former provincial teammates again in opposition colours as the Cougars continue their BCMML season.
"I made a lot of new friends there, but when game time comes there are no friends when the puck drops," he said, before adding with a smile. "Maybe I know some of their plays."
As head coach of Team B.C., Sprague got to see first hand how Thomas could adjust to the next level. He said the forward improved as the week went on and did all the coaching staff asked of him.
"Coming from Williams Lake, they've done a great job to get him to be here and playing as a Cariboo Cougar and that was a big deal for him," Sprague said of Thomas. "But there's even a big jump when you get into a [provincial] program and play for a team B.C., there's a whole level of talent and skill and accountability on every shift."
Team B.C. won its first two games of the round robin, with wins over Saskatchewan and Manitoba - the latter game was Thomas' tournament highlight - before dropping back-to-back close games to Alberta, including a 4-2 result in the final.
Sprague said the team did a good job coming together in a short amount of time and credited team captain Dante Fabbro for helping to make that happen.
"It was good to be in the final dance, that's where you want to be," he said. "We turned some heads and I think we made it further than a lot of our critics thought we would."
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:35
The Cariboo Cougars came back from four one-goal deficits to earn a point Sunday morning in a 4-4 tie with the Kootenay Ice in BC Major Midget League action at the CN Centre.
Thomas Webster secured the tie early in the third period, when he slid home a rebound past Kootenay goaltender Jason Maihiot. Chase Dubois got the play started, sending Cole Morris in on a rush. Morris drove hard to the net, his backhand was stopped but Webster was right there for the rebound.
Chase Dubois, Jesse Roach and Steven Jandric also scored for the Cougars who moved to 5-6-1 on the year. Sam Weber had a pair for the Ice, with Logan Wullum and Austin Tambellini also scoring.
Cougars goalie Lane Delfs helped preserve the tie with some key saves in the dying minutes as the Cougars killed off a late penalty.
Delfs finished with 24 saves, while Maihiot made 32 stops - including 14 in the third as the Cougars pressed hard to find the go ahead goal.
Isaiah Berra had the best chance, sliding a puck through the crease. It went off the post and then jumped over Jandric's stick. Bryan Allbee also rung a shot off the cross-bar in the third.
With the score 1-1 after one period, Wellum gave the Ice their second lead of the game early in the second, converting after nice play off a face-off deep in Cariboo territory.
The Cougars battled back, with Roach scoring a minute later, taking a beautiful pass from Berra behind the net and beating Maihiot. Jandric also picked up an assist.
Weber got his second of the game later in the period on the power play, but the Cougars came right back with Roach finding Jandric alone in the slot. Berra also got an assist.
Just 18 seconds after the Cougars had levelled the score, the Ice went back in front thanks to Tambellini's unassisted tally.
Weber opened the scoring for Kootenay just 59 seconds into the game when he banged home a rebound after a scramble in front of the Cougars net.
The Cougars got better as the first period went on, with Allbee and Scott Cullen both ringing shots off the post, Maihiot robbing Jandric on the edge of the crease and Dallas Goodwin and Thomas Webster just missing on a 2-on-1.
Finally with four seconds left in the opening frame, the Cougars hit pay dirt. Chase Dubois set up Cole Morris in front of the net and Morris one-timed it past Maihiot, although Dubois got credit for the goal. Webster also picked up an assist on the play.
The Cougars hit the road again next weekend as they visit the South Island Royals for a pair of games. The two teams meet at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9:45 a.m. on Sunday.
Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2013 06:57
Congratulations to Forward Colton Thomas and GM Trevor Sprague on bringing home silver from the Western Canadian Under 16 Challenge. Team BC fell 4-2 to Alberta in the final.
Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2013 02:13
Isaiah Berra is following a well beaten family path in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League.
Berra is the third member of his family to play for the Cariboo Cougars in recent years, following in the footsteps of brothers RJay and Hayden-James.
"The Cariboo Cougars have been a big part of my family," he said recently after his first practice since joining the team mid-season. "It's been my goal since I started midget hockey to play here and to be here in my second year is really great."
Berra, who styles himself as a power forward with a good shot, saw his first regular season action on the weekend as the Cougars swept a two-game set with the Thompson Blazers. He'll make his home ice debut on Saturday when the Cougars host the Kootenay Ice.
He's already noticed some changes since making the jump to the Cougars: the game itself is faster and the practices focus on more complex systems.
"The speed of the play here in the BCMML is a lot faster than in triple-A," Berra said. "Getting in and trying to adjust to it is going to be like a stepping stone, it's going to take some time."
Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean coached Hayden-James in the past and is looking forward to having another Berra in the lineup.
"It gives us a little confidence, knowing the family, because we know what type of character [Isaiah Berra] has," the coach said. "Isaiah is the first one [in his family] to make it at 16, which is pretty cool for him. We're really happy with what he brings to the team character wise, he's a hard-working kid and he's going to earn everything he gets."
Berra wants to make the most of the opportunity with his new team, both to help the Cougars climb up the BCMML standings and improve his own game as he becomes more comfortable at the new level.
"I want to be able to work my up," he said. "Playing here was definitely my goal this year and now that I achieved that I want to continue to develop and be the best player I can be and be a good teammate."
Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 18:59