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Prairie Hockey Academy wins U17 Prep Prairie Classic championship

Cougars post 4-1 record on way to title, defeat Lloydminster AAA Bobcats in final as tournament hosts
The Prairie Hockey Academy Cougars won the Prairie Classic U17 Prep championship over the weekend in Caronport.

A season that has already been pretty successful for the Prairie Hockey Academy U17 Cougars became that much more impressive this past weekend.

The Cougars put together a 4-1 record on their way to taking top spot in the annual Prairie Classic tournament at the Barkman Arena in Caronport, defeating the Lloydminster AAA Bobcats in the championship game Sunday.

“We were really proud of the boys, proud of the effort and the way they played the whole weekend,” said Cougars head coach Rob Holoien. “We’re still knocking some of the rust off from Christmas break, we only had one game prior to the start of the tournament, but we found our legs in the first game and never looked back after that.”

PHA opened the tournament Thursday against Northern Alberta Extreme and trailed 3-0 through two periods before Avery Johnson and Kierin Osberg scored in the final frame. Luke McKechnie had 39 saves in the loss, the Cougars fired 48 shots at Northern Alberta. 

As Holoien alluded to, that loss was a springboard for the team, and they’d find nothing but wins the rest of the tournament.

 “I think it was just doing it for your teammates,” Holoien said in explaining their success. “They just bought into the systems and played a hard physical game. The other teams were saying we were coming in waves and that just shows their hard work and consistency to really want to win hockey games. I feel like we drown teams, we don’t give up, kind of a never quit attitude and that’s really good to see as a coach.”

The Prairie Hockey offence got on a roll in their next round-robin game, as they scored four second-period goals on their way to a 6-3 win over International Hockey Academy. Aidan Vallance had a pair of markers for PHA, while Osberg, Noah Friskie, Gage Nagel and Austin Wentz all had single goals. Cameron Beisal had 37 saves in the win, the Cougars had 29 shots at the other end of the ice.

After taking a default win over winless St. Mary in their final round-robin game, it was off to the semifinal on Saturday afternoon, where Prairie Hockey would battle to a 4-2 win over IHA. Vallance gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead out of the first period and Wentz made it a 2-1 game through two before Johnson and Cole King scored in the third to take the two-goal win. McKechnie was solid in net with 45 saves, while the Cougars had 49 shots.

That set up the championship final Sunday afternoon, where PHA turned in their best game of the tournament in a 6-1 win over Lloydminster. Johnson, Nagel, Friskie, Wyatt Dreger, Easton Banda and Mikale Budz all scored in the victory, with the latter three goals the only markers scored by defencemen for PHA in the tournament. Beisal had a solid game in goal and made 36 saves, while the Cougars once again outshot their opponents, putting 42 on net at the other end of the ice.

With the tournament title comes a championship banner, something that Holoien feels his players will be able to take pride in for years to come.

“Hanging a banner and being able to walk into this rink the rest of their lives, 15, 20 years from now, and say to their kids ‘hey, that’s dad, I played on the team that won that’. It’s a neat experience,” he said. 

The Cougars -- 12-8-0-1 in the CSSHL U17 Prep league --  are right back at it at home this coming weekend, as they host their first CSSHL Showcase tournament. Prairie Hockey gets a rematch with Northern Alberta at 7:30 p.m. Friday before taking on OHA Edmonton at 6 p.m. Sunday and Edge School at 1 p.m. Sunday. All games are at the Barkman Arena in Caronport.

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