Jason Peters, Cariboo Hockey
The Cariboo Cougars are missing an important element in their game – consistency.
In every doubleheader they’ve played so far this season in the BC Elite Hockey League, the U18 Cougars have come away with a split. In their latest series, they were dominant in a 4-1 win against the Vancouver Northwest Hawks on Saturday at Kin 1 but then fell flat for the last two periods of a 5-1 Sunday loss.
“We can’t be OK with splits,” said Cougars head coach Tyler Brough, whose club is one month into a 36-game schedule.
“We’re not OK being 4-4. We push for more than that. This group deserves more than that, but they’ve got to earn it. Today they didn’t earn it. Yesterday they absolutely earned that win.
“We’ve got some work to do in that dressing room,” Brough added. “For me, it’s just being focused and ready to go and understanding what (the opposition) is going to come with.”
On Sunday, the teams were tied 1-1 after a hard-hitting, fast-paced first period. In the second, the Hawks cranked up the heat and the Cougars didn’t respond. By the end of the middle frame, the visitors had a 3-1 lead.
The Cougars killed off two penalties early in the third period and had a chance to get back within a goal when Dominic Payne of the Hawks was whistled for a check from behind with 6:59 to play. Instead, Vancouver Northwest forward Colton Eisner got free for a shorthanded goal and a 4-1 lead. Teammate Cameron Brewster then hit an empty net with 2:36 left and the teams played out the clock.
“Yesterday we were a little bit too much for them – we were overwhelming them in all three zones and kept coming in waves,” Brough said. “We were locking them down structurally, and today we just weren’t there. We knew they were going to be prepared for us, and we weren’t really prepared for them. I’ll put that on the staff. We’ve got to be better, our leadership group has to be better. Everything just trickled down, right to execution on our power play, opportunities in front of the net where we didn’t execute. For me, they were better than us from the drop of the puck and we didn’t match their intensity.”
Jaxson Ruthven of the Hawks and Chase Pacheco of the Cougars were the first-period goal-scorers.
Half way through the second, Hawks forward Max Chelico cashed in from the front of the Cariboo net after a rising point shot that goaltender Tysen Smith couldn’t handle cleanly. Then, four minutes later, Eisner grabbed a puck in the neutral zone, broke across the blueline in the middle of the ice and fired a shot that beat Smith high.
In between those two goals, Smith robbed Kassius Kler from the bottom of the left faceoff circle.
The Cougars had a great chance to cut into the Hawks’ lead with two minutes left in the second but goaltender Jon Castro made a great stop on Amar Powar, who used some fancy footwork to get in close for an opportunity.
The Hawks outshot the Cougars 31-24 and bumped their record to 5-2-0-1.
Saturday marksmen for the Cougars were Decker Mujcin (2), Carter Hesselgrave and Ryan Toor.
Ruthven scored for the Hawks.
The Cougars will be in Abbotsford this weekend for a doubleheader against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds. Game times are Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 9:45 a.m.
In other weekend results, the U17 Cougars dropped 6-1 and 3-2 decisions to the Northwest Hawks in North Vancouver. The Cats now sit at 2-3-0-1, while the Hawks are 4-2-0-0.
The Cougars don’t play again until Oct. 30-31. That weekend, they’ll be in Kelowna to square off against the Okanagan Rockets (4-2-0-0).
Meanwhile, the U15 Cougars were in Kamloops, where they split a two-game set with the Thompson Blazers. The Cats won 4-3 on Saturday and lost 4-1 on Sunday.
The Cougars are 2-3-0-1 on the season and the Blazers are 5-1-0-0.
This coming Saturday and Sunday, the Cougars will be in Kelowna for games against the Okanagan Rockets (3-3-0-0).
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