The Cariboo Cougars are looking to lock up a playoff spot this weekend as they head out on the road for their final trip of the regular season.
A pair of wins this weekend against the North Island Silvertips will clinch a post-season berth for the Cougars.
"We want to make sure we can solidify a playoff spot as early as possible and we can that this weekend so we want to make sure we get it done," head coach Bryan MacLean said.
The Cougars, 15-17-2 on the year, enter the weekend in sixth place in the BC Major Midget League. The Silvertips, 11-18-5, are clinging to the eighth and final berth.
After splitting its games during each of the past two weekends, Cariboo is looking to get maximum points out of its Island visit and build some momentum as the playoffs approach.
MacLean said his team needs to do a better job of levelling out the peaks and valleys that occur over the course of a game.
"We've got to be consistent for 60 minutes," MacLean said, noting a mid-second period let down cost the team a chance for a weekend sweep last weekend against South Island. "We can't have that happen, we need to be mentally strong when we get scored on. The other team is working hard to score goals too, so you need to accept the fact when it goes in the net and keep plugging away."
After this weekend the Cougars host the league's top two teams, Okanagan and Vancouver Northeast, the final two weeks of the season, so clinching a playoff spot now is important.
"For us it would be nice to solidify it heading into the final two weekends because then you get some free hockey out of that," MacLean said. "You can work on some stuff and not play with a lot of pressure against those teams and you might gain a bit of confidence going forward."
The Cougars and Silvertips meet on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. in Alberni Valley and on Sunday at 9:15 a.m. in Courtenay.
The highest scoring defenceman in Cariboo Cougars history added to his tally Sunday, but it wasn't enough as the South Island Royals earned a weekend split with a 5-4 win at CN Centre.
Bryan Allbee scored twice and had an assist for the Cougars to add to his already impressive point total, but the Cougars were unable to completely rally from a 5-1 second-period deficit. Allbee, who set the franchise record in a 3-0 win over the Royals on Saturday, now has 14 goals and 19 assists this year to go along with the goal and four helpers he picked up as a rookie last year.
The loss drops the Cougars to 15-17-2 on the year after splitting a weekend set for the second straight weekend. The Royals improved to 11-21-4.
Steven Jandric and Colton Thomas also scored for the Cougars. Kayden Peck, Ethan Waitzner, Parker Ellis, Jacob Malloch, Hayden Hopkins all scored for the Royals.
But it was a 26 second stretch in the middle of the second period that was decisive on Sunday. With the Royals already up 2-1, Ellis extended the advantage at 9:41 when he broke in alone and beat Cougars goalie Lane Delfs.
At 9:57 Malloch scored on an odd-man rush to make it 4-1 and Jeremy Matte came in to relieve Delfs. But at 10:07 Hopkins scored to complete the goal rush, at which point Delfs came back into the game.
The Cougars got one back before the second period was out with some nifty passing on a five-on-three power play. Allbee, quarterbacking things from the point, fed Chase Dubois down low and Dubois passed it across the crease to Jandric who tapped it in to make it a three-goal game.
The Cougars pressed hard throughout the third period to get back in the game and goals by Thomas and Allbee managed to cut the lead to one, but the equalizer was elusive.
Thomas made it 5-3 with an off-speed shot that found its way in, assisted by Cole Morris. Allbee made it a one-goal game with less than six minutes to play when he executed a bank shot from the corner. Dallas Goodwin and Carson Stephen got the assists.
The Royals capitalized on two of three first period power-play chances to take the lead after 20 two minutes. First Peck's point shot found the top corner behind a screened Delfs. Later, Waitzner found the back of the net from the slot.
Between the two Royals' power-play tallies, Allbee scored short handed on a highlight reel worthy goal. He stole the puck at the Royals blue line, deked around another Royals defenceman and beat Royals goalie Chris Smith with a well-placed shot.
Delfs finished the games with 21 saves, while Smith blocked 29 pucks.
The Cougars hit the road next weekend for the final time in the regular season when they visit the North Island Silvertips in Port Alberni and Courtenay. The Cougars are back on home ice on Feb. 22-23 against the Okanagan Rockets.
With the BC Major Midget League's playoff picture beginning to take shape, the Cariboo Cougars know they'll be playing a motivated opponent this weekend when they host the South Island Royals at CN Centre.
While the Cougars (14-16-2) look to improve on their current sixth-place standing, the Royals (10-20-4) enter the weekend tied with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"They're in a desperate situation, so we're going to playing a really desperate hockey team," Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean said. "If we're not going to march that desperation, we're going to have a hard time."
The Cougars and Royals split their two games in Victoria in November, but the home team is looking for maximum points this weekend as they try to Chase down the fifth-place Greater Vancouver Canadians who have a six-point edge coming into the weekend.
"If we want to get points out of these guys this weekend, it's going to be hard," MacLean said. "We're going to need to be ready to work for it."
MacLean said the key for the Cougars will to be to keep the Royals defence corps in check, anchored by Josh Anderson - a first round pick of the Prince George Cougars in the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
"They have big, strong defencemen and you have to be hard on them," the coach said. "For us that means getting pucks in deep, getting our feet moving and being physical."
The Cougars and Royals will play on Saturday at CN Centre at 1 p.m. and on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Jeremy Matte made 26 saves Saturday afternoon as the Cariboo Cougars blanked the South Island Royals 3-0 at CN Centre.
Defenceman Bryan Allbee was the offensive catalyst for the Cougars, setting up one goal and scoring another in the second period as Cariboo extended its BC Major Midget Hockey League home ice winning streak to three games.
Steven Jandric and Riley Pettitt scored for the Cougars as the team improved to 15-16-2 on the year. The loss dropped the Royals to 10-21-4 as they continue to battle for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Jandric got the Cougars on the board midway through the second, banging home a rebound from an Allbee shot.
Allbee extended the lead a few minutes later when he fired a point shot past Royals goalie Markus Daly. The play was set up by Pettitt, who decided to forego a backhand chance from the slot and pass it back to Allbee. Greg Dakus also picked up an assist on the play as the Cougars went into the second intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Pettitt banked one off the glass from deep in his own zone and into the empty net to ice the game with less than a minute to play in the third.
The first period was scoreless, but both teams generated some great scoring chances. Riley Pettitt had the best opportunity early when a rebound off a Greg Dakus shot bounced in his direction, but a Royals defender got there just in time to break it up.
Matte came up with some big saves, first off a power-play one-timer by Cameron Couture and then off a wicked off off the rush by Andrew Jack.
Late in the period Isaiah Berra sprung Jandric on a breakaway, but the Cougars forward's shot went wide.
Matte didn't keep every puck out of the net as the Royals got one past him early in the third, but after the officials conferenced they determined the puck was directed in intentionally by a Royals player with his body and disallowed the goal.
Daly had 29 saves for the Royals.
The two teams wrap up the weekend set on Sunday at 10 a.m. at CN Centre as the Cougars look to climb back to .500 on the year.
Defenceman Bryan Allbee contributed offensively on Sunday as the Cariboo Cougars earned a weekend split with the Kootenay Ice in Nelson.
Allbee scored twice as the Cougars won 4-2 to improve to 14-16-2 so far in the BC Major Midget League season. Isaiah Berra and Chase Dubois also scored for the Cougars as the closed back within six points of the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the race for fifth place.
Lane Delfs got the win between the pipes for the Cougars.
The loss dropped the Ice to 5-22-5 on the year.