Cariboo Cougars happy to be back on home ice
The Cariboo Cougars haven't seen a lot of their home dressing room lately.
They'll see more of it this month.
Saturday's contest against the Greater Vancouver Canadians (1 p.m. at CN Centre) marks the Cougars' first home game in Prince George in almost a month and a half. Their previous BC Major Midget League game in the city was Oct. 21 against the Kootenay Ice.'
Since that Oct. 21 contest, a 9-2 win, the Cougars have hit the ice for eight games. Six of the eight were labelled as road games with the other two part of a neutral-site 'home' doubleheader, Nov. 10 and 11 against the Thompson Blazers in McBride.
The stretch has included the team's bye weekend from Nov. 16 to 18.
It was a busy stretch away from home during a season in which the team hasn't really had a home, impacted by the 2015 Canada Winter Games' Kin Centre Enhancement Project. While the Cariboo dressing room has remained intact, the main area where they've practiced and played in past seasons is now a construction site. The renovations see Kin 1 undergo the most significant facelift, with noticeable improvements including a new roof, expanded seating and a wider ice surface.
The 16-month project is slated to be complete in October 2013.
"We're glad to be tenants of (CN Centre) this year and it's awesome to be able to play in that barn," Cariboo head coach Trevor Sprague said.
The Cougars and Canadians will play the second half of their doubleheader on Sunday, 10:15 a.m. at CN Centre.
Coming off a pair of 7-0 shutout victories on the road against the North Island Silvertips, the Cougars sit second in the 11-team league with a 15-3 record. They're two points behind the league-leading Vancouver North West Giants (15-1-2), and two above the third-place Okanagan Rockets (12-2-4).
The losses dropped the Royals record to 6-9-5, seventh in the division.
As for the Canadians, they carry a 9-7-2 record into this weekend's two-game set. They're fifth in the league, four points behind the fourth-place Vancouver North East Chiefs (11-5-2).
The Canadians have has seen their position in the standings rise thanks to a 6-1-2 record in their last nine games.
"They're the hottest team in the league right now, and they've been able to knock off some good teams and stay with the Rockets," Sprague said.
"All around, good kids and good players. They got a good staff and they've got them turned around where they're having a lot of success."
The Cougars are on a hot streak of their own, with five consecutive victories. Starting goalie Nathan Warren is carrying a league-record shutout streak of four games. He hasn't allowed a goal in his last 241:46 of action.
Warren is a second-year player, and finished last season as the back-up to David Readman.
"He's had to make some great saves to keep that shutout and keep us in the games early where maybe we haven't had the greatest start," Sprague said. "This weekend was pretty good for our team to keep the pedal down and play 60 minutes, and Warren has been the guy who's been steady back there and our guys are comfortable playing in front of him as well. Those are all things that come with being the Number 1 guy. We'll see here, I'd like him to have a shutout against the Giants."
The Cougars will be without rookie forward Riley Pettit this weekend. He separated his shoulder against the Royals on the weekend, and isn't expected back in the lineup for three weeks.
After road games against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds on Dec. 8 and 9, the Cougars will be back at home for a doubleheader against the Giants on Dec. 15 and 16. The game on Dec. 16 represents the Cougars' last league action until the new year, but they'll be returning to Calgary for the annual Mac's Tournament, Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
Updates on the Cougars are available on the team's website at www.cariboocougars.ca.