Prince George’s top-tier midget hockey club endured a roller coaster of a weekend to open its 2019-20 season.
The Cariboo Cougars had a promising start to the first game of the new year on Saturday (Sept. 21) that fell apart, but quickly answered 18 hours later on Sunday morning (Sept. 22) with a big win against the Thompson Blazers, resulting in a 1-0-0-1 record.
Prior to the opening face-off on Saturday, the Cats celebrated their second B.C. Major Midget Hockey League (BCMML) championship in three years by raising another provincial banner to the Kin 1 Arena rafters, along with a ceremonial puck-drop to kick-off the new campaign with the new crop of players.
.@cariboocougars celebrate their 2019 B.C. Major Midget Championship with a banner raising this afternoon 🥇 Ceremonial puck drop for home-opener done by @Lynhallpg, @shirleybond, @ToddDohertyMP, & GM @Boston771 | #CityOfPG @BCHockey_MML @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/rVRNtKciqn— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) September 21, 2019
The first of the doubleheader ended in a 4-3 overtime loss to Thompson after the Blazers completed an 0-3 comeback in the second period.
Cariboo jumped ahead to their three-goal lead until the 16:55 mark of the middle frame when the visitors scored the first of their four-goal comeback.
After cutting the deficit to 3-2 with four minutes left, the Blazers tied it up with 35 seconds to go, sending the opener into an extra frame, where Thompson lit the game-winning lamp 61 seconds in.
The Major Midget Cats kicked it into another gear the next morning with six goals, including three on the power-play and one shorthanded, in a 6-1 rout over the Blazers.
“We came out flying and it obviously paid off,” said Cariboo forward Alex Ochitwa in a team release. “[On the shorthanded goal] the goalie had it and we didn’t know if he was a puckhandler or not so I went hard at him and he gave it to me with the pressure. It was just a hard-working goal.”
While Phillips-Watts wasn’t overly busy in the game, he had some difficult saves to make. And, despite long stretches of inactivity, he made them.
Goaltender Colton Phillip-Watts made 12 saves on 13 shots for Cariboo’s first win of their championship-defending season, while his teammates were able to get a total of 41 shots on net Sunday.
Ethan Floris (one goal, three assists) and Ochitwa (two goals, two assists) each had four points on the weekend, while Brennan Bott and Aiden Reeves each had two-point weekends, including a goal each.
Captain John Herrington, Landon Ingham, Carter Tarish, and Nico Myatovic were the other goal-scorers for Cariboo.
The Cougars are taking a bye-week, but will be back in action on the first weekend of October when they visit the Kootenay Ice (Oct. 5 and 6).
The red and white return home to Kin 1 Arena Oct. 19 and 20 to host the Vancouver North East Chiefs.