Colton Thomas scored once and had two assists, but it wasn't enough for the Cariboo Cougars on Saturday afternoon in a 5-3 loss to the West Valley Hawks in Langley.
Bryan Allbee and Steven Jandric also scored for the Cougars, who are trying to work their way out of a mid-season slump during the most difficult stretch of their BC Major Midget League schedule. Lane Delfs took the loss in net for Cariboo.
The Cougars, 8-12-1, will try to snap a five-game losing streak when the same two teams meet again at the Langley Sportsplex on Sunday at 9:15 a.m. The Hawks, 15-6-0, have now won all three meetings between the two teams so far this season.
The message Cariboo Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean has for his players this weekend is simple, play hard for a full 60 minutes and good things will happen.
As the Cougars prepare to hit the road for a third straight weekend, MacLean said his team can't afford to take a shift off as they carry a four-game losing streak into a two-game set against the Valley West Hawks in Langley.
"For us it's sticking to what we do good for 60 minutes and we did it for 40 last weekend," MacLean said. "At this point in the season that's not good enough so we should be really motivated going in there this weekend."
The four straight losses have dropped the Cougars from fourth place in the BC Major Midget League to ninth, but with a 8-11-1 record they're still only four points out of that fourth spot. The Hawks are 14-6-0 on the year and sit in third place.
As the Cougars embark on the second half of their schedule, MacLean said the goal is to be a hard team to play against, something they've shown signs of in recent weeks despite the losses.
All four of the Cougars losses on the current skid have come against the top two teams in the league and Cariboo was close in all but one of those contests.
"We've played two tough teams, but at the same time I think we were good enough to win some of those games," MacLean said.
The Hawks beat the Cougars twice in Prince George earlier this year. This weekend's set begins Saturday at 12:15 p.m. at the Langley Sportsplex. They finish up on Sunday at 9:15 a.m.
It's never hard to tell when Bryan Allbee is on the ice for the Cariboo Cougars. Not only does the blue-liner have one of the bigger bodies on the team, he's also one of the most vocal players in the rink.
Allbee knows the importance of communicating with his teammates and when he's open and looking for a pass, his voice echoes throughout the CN Centre.
"It's huge, everyone's got to start doing it," the second-year player from Prince George said. "We've got to start talking more."
All that talking is paying off for Allbee as he's averaging nearly a point a game for the Cougars, while still adhering to his defensive assignments in his own zone. His excellent play early in the year earned him the team's nomination for BC Major Midget League player of the month.
In 18 games this year he has seven goals and 10 assists.
"I'm trying to hop into the offence whenever I can and produce to help the team," he said.
Allbee said his offensive numbers have jumped this year in part because he's being put in situations to succeed.
"I'm getting the ice time and the points are coming a lot more than last year," he said. "Being on the power helps a lot too."
Prior to dropping a pair of games to the BCMML leading Okanagan Rockets last weekend, the Cougars had won five of eight and Allbee said the team is really starting to gel.
The Cougars are going to need to find that formula for success again asAllbee and his teammates are getting ready for back-back road trips in the coming weeks, first against the Vancouver NW Giants and then against the Valley West Hawks. The next home games are slated for Dec. 14-15 when the Greater Vancouver Canadians come calling.
On the horizon is the annual Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary over the holidays
"I'm really looking forward to it, I had an awesome experience last time," Allbee said. "We were pretty successful last year."
Although his offensive game is flourishing, Allbee is still working on using his six-foot, 170-pound frame more effectively in the physical aspect of the sport.
"I know the coaches want me to start picking it up," he said. "I should be hitting lots."
Kamloops Blazers defenceman Josh Connolly will be on the ice at CN Centre on Dec. 23 as the Cariboo Cougars renew an an annual holiday tradition.
Connolly will be among the nearly two dozen graduates of the Cougars program to return for the alumni game.
“It’s fun going back, playing with some of the guys you played with, playing with the new guys,” Connolly said. “I enjoyed it last year and it should be fun this year as well.”
Connolly has fond memories of the time he spent playing for his hometown team in the BC Major Midget League. He said his time with the Cougars helped him prepare to take the next step in his hockey career.
“It’s really like the Western Hockey League, practice a lot, you work out a lot and it’s a good level of hockey,” he said.
In particular Connolly credits the Cougars coaching with helping him improve his play in his own end, something of upmost importance for a player at his position.
In 42 regular-season games over two seasons with the Cougars, Connolly had 13 goals and 29 assists. But some of his favourite experiences came during visits to the Mac's Midget AAA tournament in Calgary.
“The playoff run was pretty cool and I made a lot of friends," he said.
Connolly had a lot of success on the ice with the Cougars and that carried over to last year when as a rookie he helped the Blazers reach the WHL's Western Conference final. This year Connolly is taking on a bigger role on the ice with a Blazers team in rebuilding mode.
"I know our team isn’t as strong as last year, but I’m playing a ton,” he said. “Hopefully our team can start winning and make the playoffs, that would be a really good goal for us.”
Come Dec. 23 at 7 p.m., Connolly and the other players in the Cariboo Cougars alumni game can put aside all those concerns about their club teams, reconnect with old friends and have a good time on the CN Centre ice.
Among the other players who will suit up are:
Ryan Howse F
Alex Roach D
Seb Lloyd F
Tyson Witala F
Chase Witala F
Jake LeBrun F
Jordan Duncan F
Justin Duncan D
Liam Blackburn F
Braiden Epp F
Linden Martell F
Tanner Fejstrom F
Raymond Grewal D
Stephen Penner D
Harjas Grewal F
Chase Astorino F
Shaun Cormier F
Chris Allbee F
Nick Headrick D
James Morrison G
Jared Rathjen G