November 22, 2013 (ISN) – The Cariboo Cougars have been playing some of their best hockey in recent weeks and are going to need to continue that this weekend as they visit the BC Major Midget League leading Okanagan Rockets.
The Cougars (8-7-1) are winners of five of their past eight games and have climbed to fourth place in the BCMML standings heading to a two-game set against an Okanagan (13-2-1) team with a two-point lead at the top of the standings.
“These are the guys who are supposed to beat us,” Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean said. “That’s the way everyone thinks it’s going to go, but for us, we’re going to have a lot of pride in what we do and we’re going to go in there and play two hard hockey games.”
MacLean said the message to his team won’t change as they get ready for six straight road games against some of the BCMML’s toughest opposition. He said if the Cougars continue to keep to the game plan and work hard, they compete with anyone in the league.
“We’re going in as the underdogs and our expectation is we’re going to go in, play really hard for 120 minutes and see what happens,” he said.
After this week’s visit to Kelowna for games at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday, the Cougars head to the Lower Mainland on back-to-back weekends. First they’ll play the perennially powerful Vancouver Giants, then they’ll face the Valley West Hawks.
“It’s really going to test the character of our team, but I think it’s really good for us,” MacLean said. “It’s a really good opportunity for us to grow as a hockey team and I think at the end of the day we’re going to be better because of it.”
While the focus this weekend will be focused on the Rockets, the Cougars are looking forward to making another trip to Calgary over the holidays to play in the prestigious Mac’s Midget AAA tournament. After an up-and-down start to the year, the Cougars played their way into the invitational event with a 5-2-1 record over the past month.
“You look at the way we started the season and some of the turmoil we went through, I think it’s a really good accomplishment for this group of guys,” MacLean said. “Went through a lot in the first eight games of this year and we’re really happy with what we did in the last eight. I think we really earned our way to get there.”