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Cariboo Cougars earn weekend split with Vancouver Northeast Chiefs

Three goals by Carter Yarish – two of them on first-period power plays – helped the Cariboo Cougars gain a weekend split with the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs.

The Cougars beat their B.C. Hockey Major Midget League rivals 4-1 on Sunday at Kin 1, after a 7-3 loss on Saturday night. Yarish got the Cats started in the rematch with two early man-advantage goals and then Fischer O’Brien added to the lead with his own power-play marker with about three minutes left in the opening period.

After a scoreless second, Jeremy Hanzel pulled the Chiefs into a 3-1 deficit with 7:58 left to play in the third. Yarish, however, spoiled any thoughts of a comeback when he connected for his hat-trick goal a couple minutes later.

Yarish, a 16-year-old forward from Prince George, is a first-year member of the Cougars and the hat trick was his first in the BCHMML.

“It was pretty fun, a pretty surreal experience,” said Yarish, who played at Yale Hockey Academy last season. “Everyone was going today and my teammates helped me out to get that hat trick.”

Yarish now has seven goals in eight games this season. He was one of the better Cariboo players all weekend and head coach Tyler Brough is glad to have his presence in the lineup.

“He’s been good for us,” Brough said. “He’s made the transition (to the league). He’s happy to be home, he’s buying into our systems and he’s getting rewarded for it. I thought he was one of the guys who stood out for us (Saturday) night in a pretty poor effort across the board I thought. But for him to get rewarded today for putting in the effort both games, it really paid off and it’s good to see.”

Sunday’s success on the power play was obviously a key factor in the game. The Cougars wanted a quick start and got it thanks to their puck movement and traffic in front of the net to make life difficult for Chiefs goaltender Callum Tung.

“Our execution was there on the power play,” Brough said. “We didn’t retaliate early, we had lots of opportunities on that power play and it worked for us.

“The only adjustment we talked about was getting in front of (the goaltender). We had our traffic there (on Saturday) but as soon as we were getting ready to shoot we were backing away from him, giving him a lane. This time, we held that net-front, we took his eyes away and I think two of the first three that went in, he didn’t even see those.”

The goal for Vancouver Northeast came while the Cougars were down a man and was unfortunate for goaltender Jordan Fairlie, who was closing in on his first BCHMML shutout in his fourth game. On the play, Hanzel put a shot toward the net from the right point and the puck deflected off a man in front and past Fairlie. Overall, the Chiefs outshot the Cougars 30-28 but Fairlie had almost all the answers.

“I feel it went a lot better than (Saturday),” said the six-foot-two product of Fort St. John. “We played better as a team and it wasn’t just me. It was a group effort and it got us a win in the end.”

Fairlie, 16, started the season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League but was sent to the Cougars after Swift Current added 20-year-old goalie Reece Klassen to its roster.

“It’s different – you have to kind of adjust to each league,” said Fairlie, who has a 3-1 record with the Cougars so far. “It took a few days to kind of get used to this because I was used to the bigger guys. But it’s good. I like it here a lot. It’s a good place to come and develop.”

Based on what he has seen so far, Brough expects Fairlie to be back in the WHL next season.

“He’s been good for us and he will be good for us,” Brough said. “If we don’t give up Grade-A opportunities, they’re going to have a hard time scoring on him. (On Saturday) we gave up too many good scoring chances and we can’t ask him to stop that many in a game.

“He’s your typical new-age goalie. He’s so structurally sound that he doesn’t need a whole lot of movement. He’s a bigger body that covers the net and he has a lot of confidence in himself. He’s been at the WHL level and we expect him to be there again next year with Swift. He’s a good, hard-working kid so we appreciate that.”

With Cariboo forward Nico Myatovic at the WHL Cup in Calgary with Team B.C., the Cougars called up Decker Mujcin from the minor midget club for the weekend. At five-foot-six and 145 pounds, Mujcin is smaller in stature but that didn’t prevent him from engaging in battles. He was a buzz-saw on all of his Sunday shifts and that left a positive impression on Brough.

“Decker added a lot for us,” Brough said. “His feet are moving, he’s good on the forecheck – exactly what we talked about with him. I didn’t want him to change his game style. He’s a little wrecking ball out there. He’s not afraid to finish his checks and he’s not afraid to get into the mix. That’s exactly why we injected him into our lineup.”

Sunday’s result moved the Cougars to 6-1-0-1 on the season and dropped the Chiefs to 7-3-0-0.

The Cougars will be in Richmond this coming weekend for games against the Greater Vancouver Canadians. Game times are 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Their next home games are Nov. 2-3, with the Okanagan Rockets as the opponent.

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