The Cougars, members of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, earned a spot in the national Junior A championship final by downing the British Columbia Hockey League’s Penticton Vees 3-1 on Saturday.
As the host team Cobourg had been awarded an automatic entry into the five-squad RBC Cup tourney.
The Cougars though have certainly proved they deserve to be playing for a national crown.
Cobourg topped the standings following round-robin action in the tournament. And they continued their solid play on Saturday, scoring twice in the final period in their battle with the Vees to punch their ticket into the final.
The Cougars will square off against the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits in the final, which will be staged at the Cobourg Community Centre. The opening face off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST.
The Bandits earned their spot in the final with a 4-0 victory over the Quebec Junior Hockey League’s Terrebonne Cobras in Saturday’s other semifinal.
The Cougars and their faithful realized they were heading to the final after 20-year-old forward Spencer Roberts sealed the game with an empty net goal with 66 seconds remaining in the contest.
“That’s probably my biggest goal,” Roberts said of his insurance marker which helped propel the Cougars into the national championship final.
The Cobourg squad has certainly turned some heads at this year’s RBC Cup. The Cougars had bowed out of their own league playoffs after they were swept in their conference final series.
The Cobourg club had more than a five-week layoff before beginning play in the national tourney. But Roberts, the nephew of former NHLer Gary Roberts, said his side has not been surprised with its own play thus far.
“We knew we could compete in this tournament,” said Roberts, who was honoured as the event’s top forward and top scorer (based on round-robin games only).
Besides home-ice advantage, the Cougars also capitalized on a bit of good luck during their semifinal contest.
Cobourg defenceman Nick Minerva had his shot attempt blocked by a Vees’ defender. But the puck found its way onto the stick of Cougars forward Theo Lewis, who was left unattended to the right of the Penticton net. Lewis made no mistake firing home what proved to be the game-winning goal with slightly more than eight minutes left in the third period.
Brooks is making its second consecutive appearance at the RBC Cup. The Bandits bowed out following a semifinal loss at the 2016 tournament, which was hosted by the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats.
Brooks forward Nick Prkusic was pleased his side was able to win its semifinal contest this year and earn a spot in the national final.
“The key (Saturday) was just sticking to our game plan,” he said. “That’s what we talked about before we went out there, is playing our style of game, doing what got us here.”
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