The Cariboo Cougars are on the ice at the Kin Centre this weekend for exhibition games against the North West Hawks of North Vancouver.
Just like in previous seasons, BC Hockey has two age divisions for players aged 15-17, but this year marks a change for the younger players in what was formerly known as the major midget program.
The league now has under-18 and under-17 age groupings. The U-17s replace the U-16 age group which competed in the league the three previous seasons. All teams in the U-17 league are allowed to carry as many as seven 15-year-olds, whereas before the younger group was exclusively 15-year-old players.
Cariboo Cougars general manager Trevor Sprague explains the change was needed to maintain continuity as the players age.
“When you have all these guys playing triple-A at U-15, and then they go to U-18 (the following season), not all of them make it and then they have to go back to their association and play double-A,” said Sprague. “Those top-end guys should be able to play triple-A. It’s just better development for our high-end players.”
In Prince George, the u-18 double-A Bobcats will be stocked with players from northern B.C. who might have tried out for the U-18 and U-17 teams but didn’t quite make the grade to play at the triple-A level.
“You can have all three age groups (U-18, U-17 and U-16) with the U-18 double-A Bobcats,” said Sprague.
Tyler Brough is back as head coach of the U-18 Cougars, and his assistant coaches are RJay Berra and Jordan Duncan, while former Cariboo Cougar alumni Stew Lambert is bench boss of the U-17 Cougars, with Stew Lambert and RJ Parker as the assistants.
On Friday the North West Hawks U-18 squad bombed the U-18 Cougars 12-2. Amar Power and Caleb Poitras were the goalscorers for Cariboo. The Hawks beat the Cougars 5-1 Saturday morning. Powar was the lone Cougar marksman. Those teams are back on the ice today at Kin 1 and will meet again at 9 a.m. Sunday, also at Kin 1.
In U-17 action, the Cougars and Hawks are playing their second game of the weekend today, which started at 11:45 a.m. at Kin 1. The Hawks won Friday's game 5-1. The same teams meet again at Kin 1 today at 5:45 p.m. and wrap up the weekend Sunday at Kin 2 for an 8:15 a.m. opening face-off.