A couple of former BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice players helped the Cariboo Cougars capture the BC Major Midget title on Saturday, with an 8-2 victory over the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.
The Cariboo Cougars had the ‘X’ factor working for them between the pipes as former Ice goalie Xavier Cannon stymied the Thunderbird shooters in Game 1 in a 3-0 shut-out win, and was back in the crease for the 8-2 drubbing to win the best-of-three series, 2-0.
The Cougars’ victory was also helped out by former Ice forward Booker Daniel, who had a two-point game with a goal and an assist.
“Those boys earned it,” Cougars head coach Tyler Brough told the Prince George Citizen. “We got some bounces when we needed them, our execution was good and our power play scored when we got a few opportunities and we got great goaltending.
“It was nice to get that early lead, we kind of knew we had momentum coming in (to the first intermission) and it carried through to the second (period) and we just locked everything down and it worked out.”
The Cougars almost didn’t make it back to the final, overcoming a tough Vancouver NE Chiefs team that took Game 1 of the semifinal 4-2. The Cougars were on the verge of elimination, but eked out a dramatic 3-2 overtime win to force a Game 3, which they won 4-2.
Jaxon Danilec led the Cougar attack with two goals and an assist, Brendan Pigeon fired a pair of goals and Fischer O’Brien finished with a goal and two assists, while Daniel, Connor Fleming and Brett Fudger also scored for Cariboo in Saturday’s clincher.
The coaching staff had a difficult decision on who to start in goal. Devin Chapman won the second and third games of the semifinal series with the Vancouver NE Chiefs, allowing just two goals in each of those games.
Cannon and Chapman have been trading starts ever since Chapman returned to midget from the BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks a few months into the season.
“It’s a good problem to have and these guys are making it very hard on us, we’ve got two Grade-A starting goalies,” said Brough. “X shut them out Friday with a good effort and we decided to go back to him and he got the job done.”
Fraser Valley won home-ice advantage for the final by virtue of its first-place finish, one point ahead of the Cougars. Brough admitted his team drew added motivation from what happened to them in last year’s final.
The Cougars, who won the provincial crown in 2017, will go on to face the Alberta-champion Calgary Buffaloes in a best-of-three Pacific region championship series which starts Friday in Calgary. The winner will advance to the Telus Cup midget national championship in Thunder Bay, Ont., April 22-28.