The Cariboo Cougars rode a quartet of power-play goals to an 8-3 win over the Thompson Blazers on Saturday at CN Centre.
Jesse Roach, Scott Cullen and Isaiah Berra all scored second-period goals as the Cougars capitalized on three straight power plays to take control of the game and improve to 12-15-2 on the year. Thomas Webster added the fourth power-play goal late in the third.
Chase Dubois, Greg Dakus, Steven Jandric and Berra got the other goals for the Cougars, who controlled the game from start to finish. Colton Thomas had three assists.
After failing to generate any goals on their first three power play chances of the game, the Cougars got things going midway through the second in large part thanks to the work of those manning the points. Already leading 2-1, the three goals broke the game open.
First it was Thomas who rung a long-range shot off the post and after the puck bounced off Blazers starting goalie Daniel Toews, Roach poked it home. Then it was Cullen's turn and his point shot beat a screened Toews, with Brendan Moore picking up the lone assist.
The Blazers switched goalies, sending in Bailey De Palma, but the Cougars still converted their next power play chance. Once again it was a Thomas shot that got things started. His point blast was wide of the mark, but Berra collected the rebound off the end boards and scored. Bryan Allbee also got an assist as the Cougars took a 5-1 lead into the third period.
The Blazers made a game of it in the third as Gordon Keaton scored right off a face-off and then set up a Nii Noi Tettah goal a minute later to cut the Cougars' lead in half.
The Cariboo defence tightened up after that and the Cougars restored their big advantage. First Thomas set up Dubois, with Allbee getting an assist, then Dakus tipped home a Riley Pettitt shot.
Webster rounded out the scoring with a shot from the high slot.
The loss dropped the Blazers to 4-19-6 on the year.
The Cougars top offensive line generated both Cariboo goals in the first period. Less than three minutes into the game Roach did the heavy lifting getting the puck into the Blazers zone and slid it front. In the ensuing scramble Berra buried it past Toews.
After the Blazers tied it midway through the period when Zander Buchanon tipped home an Alex Astasiewicz point shot, the Cougars took the lead a second time.
Jandric was the beneficiary of a beautiful passing play. Roach fed Berra in front and rather than shoot he passed off to Jandric at the side of the net. All Jandric had to was tap the puck into the open net.
Jeremy Matte made 16 saves for the Cougars - 13 of those in the third period. Toews had 19 saves for the Blazers and De Palma blocked seven pucks.
The two teams complete the weekend set back at the CN Centre on Sunday at 10 a.m.
The Cariboo Cougars have played just two league games in the past month, but that's about to change as they begin the stretch drive in the B.C. Major Midget League this weekend with a pair of games against the Thompson Blazers.
Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean said the light schedule to start 2014 has given the team a chance to rest injured players and regroup in advance of the playoff push.
"It's been a good month, we've been at home and we've been able to rest and relax and get our heads in the right space," he said.
The break between games has also given the coaches a chance to work on a few things they feel need to be improved during the closing weeks of the regular season.
First up are the Blazers who are near the bottom of the BCMML standings with a 4-18-6 record, 10 points behind the 11-15-2 Cougars. But MacLean knows they can't take the visitors lightly as the Blazers have been playing better in recent weeks.
"They've won three games in the last little while, including one against the [Vancouver] Chiefs last weekend," the coach said. "They're doing things the right way right now and playing spoiler a little bit."
The Cougars enter the weekend in seventh place in the standings, but are just one point behind the North Island Silvertips with two games in hand.
Over the next four weeks the Cougars will play eight games against teams in the bottom half of the standings. Win those and they'll have a chance to climb the ladder, but stumbling could cost them a playoff spot.
As the Cougars play teams for a second time this year, MacLean and the coaching staff can use the video they shot earlier in the season to get players ready for what to expect. And MacLean thinks his team is ready to put those lessons into action this weekend as the teams meet twice at the CN Centre. Saturday's game is set for 4:15 p.m. and the rematch on Sunday is scheduled for 10 a.m.
"If we play the way we want to play the way we want to play and get to it early and do it for 120 minutes, I think we're going to like where we're at, at the end of the day," he said.
Heading into the season, Cariboo Cougars forward Jesse Roach wasn't quite sure how his game would adjust to the B.C. Major Midget League.
As it turns out, the big forward from Quesnel had nothing to worry about. Not only does he lead the Cougars in scoring this year, Roach is also one of four Cariboo representatives who will be heading to Langley on Friday night for the league's annual all-star game.
"It's definitely a privilege, it was one of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year," Roach said of the all-star appearance.
He'll be joined on the ice by linemate Steven Jandric and defenceman Bryan Allbee. General manger Trevor Sprague rounds out the Cariboo contingent and will be making his seventh straight appearance at the game in a coaching or managerial role.
Roach will be wearing Team Blue's colours when the puck drops and will be up against both Jandric and Allbee who have been selected for Team White.
"It will definitely be fun to play against some of the guys on the team," Roach said.
He's looking forward to the game and maybe picking up a few things from his all-star teammates that he can apply to his game with the Cougars.
At six-foot-four and 191 pounds, Roach is one of the more imposing players on the Cariboo roster. He said he aims to play a power forward style game to go along with his finishing ability around the net. In 28 games this season he has 15 goals and 22 assists.
Many of those points have come playing alongside fellow all-star Jandric.
"He's definitely a great player and fun to play with," he said. "I know he can put the puck in the net."
While there may have been some uncertainty joining his new team this year, Roach said making the jump to major midget this year was made a little bit easier thanks to his Western Hockey League training camp experience.
"I thought it would be a lot more difficult to adjust to the league, but going to Vancouver's training camp this summer really helped me," he said.
Roach's play has picked up and he proved that by being named the Cariboo Cougars player of the month for December and was a runner up for the BC Major Midget Player of the Month. He hopes to keep up his solid all-star play the rest of the season.
Four members of the Cariboo Cougars participated in the annual BC Major Midget All-star game Friday night. Forward Jesse Roach and General Manager Trevor Sprague were a part of Team Blue. Steven Jandric and Bryan Allbee suited up for Team White. While Jandric was the only one to get on the score sheet with an assist. Team Blue would prevail 8-6. The Cats are off this weekend, but will return to action next weekend when they host the Thompson Blazers.
The Vancouver North East Chiefs earned a weekend split against the Cariboo Cougars on Sunday with a 5-3 win at the Prince George Coliseum in B.C. Major Midget League action.
Chase Dubois scored twice for the Cougars in the third to draw the home team even at 3-3, but a goal by Matthew Hermary with just over three minutes to go put the Chiefs ahead for good. Connor Burk sealed the win with an empty-net goal with five seconds to play.
Jesse Roach scored the other goal for the Cougars who move to 11-15-2, while Burk, Lucas Johansen and Kris Zlomisli also scored for the Chiefs who are 14-10-4 on the year.
With the Cougars down 3-1, Dubois got Cariboo back within one on a nice individual effort stealing a cross-ice pass and beating Chiefs goalie Adam Derochie. He got his second minutes later banging home a Roach rebound.
For the second day in a row the Cougars successfully killed off a lengthy 5-on-3 disadvantage, this time only conceding one shot against in a minute and a half in an early second period two man disadvantage.
Roach got the Cougars on the board in the power play just over six minutes into the second. Standing on the doorstep of the crease he took a perfect pass from the point by Carson Stephen and redirected past Derochie. Colton Thomas, who often mans the other point on the power play, also got an assist.
The Chiefs re-took the lead on a power play goal of their own as Burk whistled a shot from the point off the cross-bar and in. Parker Colley had the lone assist as the Chiefs took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
Zlomisli tipped home a Jeff Wong shot just over a minutes into the third to make it 3-1.
The Chiefs controlled the play in the early part of the first period and struck first with Johansen scoring his second of the weekend just two and half minutes into the game set up by Lucas Santucci.
The Cougars best chance in the first period came on a two-on-one break as Thomas Webster and Dallas Goodwin led the rush, but they were unable to beat Derochie.
Vancouver jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead on the shot counter, but the Cougars clawed back to make it 14-9 after one period.
Lane Delfs, who played both games for the Cougars this weekend, made 23 saves, while Derochie blocked 28 pucks.
The Cougars were 5-3 winners on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars have next weekend off before they host the Thompson Blazers on Jan. 25 and 26 at CN Centre.