Now they’re hoping for more of the same when they host their first-ever Showcase tournament this weekend at Barkman Arena.
But first, that always-important season-opening win.
It isn’t often you post a 4-1 victory over your nearest league rival and come away expecting better. But with the way the third period turned out in Wilcox, Cougars head coach Micah Abbott will be looking for a little more late-game drive from his troops going forward.
“I thought we started out pretty good, actually, but as the game went on, I don’t know if the big ice surface kind of threw us off a little bit, but Notre Dame got some momentum and started working a little bit harder than we did,” Abbott said. “Lucky for us our goalie played really good and bailed us out a few times.”
Cougars goaltender Bodee Wiess wasn’t overly busy in the final frame – he finished the contest with nine saves in the third and 41 overall – but the quality of the scoring chances was concerning. Given that, Abbott would like to see a more consistent level of play from start to finish.
“There were a lot of good things that happened, a lot of things we can build off,” he said. “We just got caught running around at times in our own end and they got some scoring opportunities, but the guys worked hard and we’ll be looking forward for more of that this weekend.”
Tate Schofer finished the game with a goal and two assists for PHA, while Paul McKale and Jackson Allan added single markers.
Ethan Look scored Notre Dame’s lone goal; Austin Elliott made 23 saves in the loss.
That sets the stage for this weekend, as Notre Dame, Winnipeg’s Rink Academy, Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence and Penticton’s Okanagan Hockey Academy all make the trip to Caronport for the Showcase.
“It’s going to be a good test,” Abbott said. “We’ll be seeing some good teams and we’re expecting some close games.”
Action kicks off Friday at 4:30 p.m., with PHA hosting Okanagan followed by Pursuit facing Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Teams get off to an early start on Saturday as Okanagan takes on Rink at 8:30 a.m. and PHA faces Pursuit at 11 a.m.. Games continue in the evening with Okanagan against Notre Dame at 4:30 p.m. and Pursuit playing Rink at 7 p.m. Things wrap up early Sunday, with Notre Dame against Okanagan at 8 a.m. and Rink against PHA at 10:30 a.m.
There’s little question the Cougars will be looking to make the most of home ice advantage, with speed and hard work expected to be their biggest keys to victory.
“This year we’re a little smaller than last year, with a lot of speed and a lot of character and a lot of skill,” Abbott said. “Our team has come together really well as a group, the first couple weeks of school they’ve all been together and they get along really well and they work hard. The way it’s looking we’re going to have to push the pace with our speed and go to work.
“It’s all up to them, if they want to use the tools we have and buy into the identity we want to have as a team with speed and hard work, then we’re going to do really well.”
The goal is to build on the success of last season, which saw the Elite 15s reach the CSSHL championship tournament in their inaugural season in the league.
“We think we have a team that can contend and go far in the playoffs, it’s up to them,” Abbott said. “Notre Dame gave us a wake-up call the other night there and the last couple days of practice the guys have responded really well and looked really good.”