Cougars Enjoying Number 1 Ranking
Prince George, B.C. – There’s likely few people who appreciate this year’s franchise best start to the Prince George Cougars season more than veteran play-by-play man Dan O’Connor.
Though the Cats are now ranked the top team in the Canadian Hockey League after winning their first six games, it wasn’t that long ago, pre New Ice Age to be exact, when the team was at the bottom of the standings and he was calling games in a nearly empty CN Centre.
“I think it’s really special for the folks that have lived through some pretty lean years of hockey in this city to all of a sudden be at the point where the team is ranked nationally and the building has started to fill up,” says O’Connor.
“I mean these were the things that the ownership group when they took over the team envisioned with that change and I think for things to be where they’re at now is a very big positive step in the right direction.”
What does he attribute the team’s fast start to?
“To a lot of things. First and foremost, the depth that’s been assembled within the organization. I think a lot of that credit goes to (GM) Todd Harkins. It’s a team that has a lot of returning parts and returning veterans that have been through the travel, been through the rigours and been through the wars.”
He also gives a lot credit to the coaching staff – namely head coach Richard Matvichuk and associate coach Steve O’Rourke who he says are “clearly pushing all the right buttons, they are inspiring this team all the right ways.”
And of course there’s the performance of the players
“You don’t win the games without timely goals, timely saves, a great penalty kill and a little bit of puck luck as well.”
However, O’Connor cautions championships aren’t won in October and that the team will have to stay focused when the Vancouver Giants visit the Cats at the CN Centre Friday and Saturday night.
“I don’t think anyone in the Cougars organization is taking this weekend for granted. The Cougars had a game in Langley versus the Giants in late September and it was a 7-6 final for the Cougars,” he says.
“So I know the Giants will have that game fresh in their mind. There’s a lot of heart and a lot of energy on that side and you know they’d love to be the team that hands the Cougars their first loss of the season.”