The Cariboo Cougars are set to host one of their biggest rivals in a rare playoff meeting between the two clubs for the BC Major Midget League semi-final this weekend in Prince George.
The Cougars are coming off a sweep of the South Island Royals while the Rockets took three games to dispatch the Valley West Hawks. The Cats look to advance to their fourth straight BCMML championship series while the Rockets are seeking their first final berth since 2008 when the Cougars swept them for the Cats lone league title.
While the Cougars first round opponent pitted them against a very different looking Royals squad the semi-final features two very similar teams. The Cougars finished the regular season as the highest scoring team with 211 goals in 40 games while the Rockets weren't far behind at 190. Both teams posted 103 goals against. The Cats finished the season with a team-best record of 31-8-1 while the Rockets finished five points back in third at 26-8-6.
The Cougars won the season series between the two clubs 3-1, including an 8-0 win in Kelowna and a pair of wins in Prince George (5-3 and 8-4). But Cats head coach Trevor Sprague knows those numbers mean absolutely nothing.
"It's playoff hockey, it's a new season, so what happened in pre-season isn't really going to matter," said Sprague. "We saw that in the first series against South Island, they're going to bring their best game, we're going to bring our best game and we'll see who's going to win at the end of the day."
Just as in the regular season, offence was not a problem for the Cats in the first round of the playoffs scoring a combined 9 goals through the two game sweep while posting close to 100 shots on goal. But Sprague and the Cougars coaching staff are looking for improved defensive zone play heading into this weekend's semi-final.
"Make sure that we're picking our third and fourth guys up, we're being a unit in the d zone, our first pass is good and we capitalize on our opportunities right off the bat and we get up early. If those things happen then there should be a lot of success for the Cariboo Cougars."
Game 1 of the best-of-three semi-final is set for 5:00pm Friday with game 2 Saturday at 1:00pm. If a third and deciding game is needed, it will go Sunday at 10:15am. All games will be played at CN Centre with admission by donation, and all will be available live at cariboocougars.ca.
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