Sprague’s Team Captures BCMML Championship
Prince George, B.C. – The team Cariboo Cougars General Manager and Head Coach Trevor Spraque and his coaches put together to mount a determined, competitive challenge against the other five entrants for the national midget hockey championship will be doing just that. They are going into next month’s Telus Cup as champions.
The Cariboo Cougars won the 2016-17 BC Major Midget League championship on Sunday, riding the shutout goaltending of Marcus Allen and a solid defensive team effort to a 4-0 victory over the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the deciding game of their best-of-three series at Kin 1. In fact Allen didn’t allow a goal by the Canadians for the final six periods of the series.
And, as Trevor Sprague so aptly put it following the game, “there’s no more ape on my back”, referring to the previous two seasons in which the Cougars fell short in their bid to win the title. But that was then, and then is long gone.
The rubber match between the clubs was set up by Vancouver’s 3-2, double-overtime victory in the opener Friday night. The Cougars gutted out a solid 2-0 win in game 2 on Saturday, forcing the deciding match-up at Kin 1.
The home team came out of the gate laying on the body in the first period and narrowly missed taking the lead when Trey Thomas cranked a hard shot off the crossbar three-and-a-half minutes in and Darian Long hit the post on a slap shot from the slot at 11:20.
That lead finally came after Vancouver took an interference penalty at the 12:37 mark. From the face-off it took just eight seconds for Jeremy Gervais to score on the power play, assisted by Daine Dubois and Devin Sutton. That was the lone goal of the period as the Cougars headed to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead. They outshot the Canadians 10-5.
A determined Vancouver club took the ice in the second and it was Allen’s turn to shine, making one great save in close at 1:06 and then making a tremendous left pad save on a breakaway by Noah Kelly who broke in over the line home-free only to be stymied on his attempt to deke the goaltender at the 1:50 mark. A little under two minutes later Allen flashed his glove hand to snare a slapper from Scott Atkinson that was labelled for the top left hand corner.
The Cariboo Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead when Thomas knocked in a rebound at the edge of the crease at 9:57, assist going to Dubois.
Dubois took a tripping minor at 12:41 and while shorthanded Mason Richey grabbed the puck outside the Canadians’ blue line and sailed in on Shaw, only to be stopped in his attempt to make it 3-0. With the penalty winding down Allen was called upon again top make a great glove save on a hard shot from the left point that had top corner written all over it.
Cougars took a 2-0 lead out of the second period in which they were outshot 13-9.
The Vancouver plan of attack in the third was clear, dump and chase, which they did repeatedly for the first three minutes of the frame. The Cougars responded by keeping it simple and dumping the puck out.
A beautiful three-way passing play inside the Vancouver blue line led to the 3-0 goal. Daine Dubois to Jeremy Gervais who threaded it ahead to Brandon Rowley who beat Shaw cleanly with a low shot.
The Cougars had to kill another penalty when Brennan Malgunas went off for tripping at 6:33. Vancouver had a great opportunity to score when Atkinson found himself alone 10 feet in front of the net and drilled a shot which was snagged by Allen at 7:54.
The Cougars did a masterful job of controlling play for a good part of the remainder of the game, slowing their puck movement down and taking time off the clock, even as they controlled play in Vancouver’s zone during a power play in the middle of the period.
The Canadians pulled Shaw from the net for a sixth attacker with about two minutes left and, after they first hit a post of the vacant cage Nathan Kelly deposited a shot from outside the Vancouver blue line to wrap up the scoring.
Cariboo Cougars 4, Greater Vancouver Canadians 0.
Shots in the third period were 3-2 Cougars, 22-20 for the home side for the game.
The first two games of the series were tight, and Sprague explains his team’s dominance in the rubber match quite simply. “It’s just puck pursuit, we wanted that puck more than they did, we were willing to play physical, willing to make sure that our puck got to the net and make sure that we kept the puck away from our net, and we did a good job.”
Of he goaltending he says “Allen was absolutely unreal. Awesome for him and his family and our hockey team and, you know, it was really big where we’re on the PK and your best PK guy is your goaltender and he did that at times for us in the last two games.”
Sprague is totally elated and didn’t bat an eye when some of his players snuck up from behind during our interview and did the Gatorade champion’s baptism. “Gotcha” I said. “Lovely to see that, Don” was his grinning reply.
SO how does he feel winning the championship after dropping two in a row? “You know what,” he says “it brings water to my eyes man. I appreciate the team we put together, the coaching staff has been unreal, the people that support us have been great and this is all for them. This is for them and their families and it’s an awesome feeling.”
Sprague’s focus is 100% on a national championship. “We’re looking for the Telus Cup, we’re looking to win that, right here in our home town. First game is against Alberta (Team Pacific).” The Cougars go into the April 24th to 30th tournament as the host team.
But for right now, Trevor says it’s time to celebrate a title with the team. “These guys have been awesome. I want to spend some time with them here, they earned it. They’ve broken records all year and they deserve this win and that’s it, it’s good.”