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Cariboo Cougars earn weekend split

On opening weekend of the BC Elite Hockey League season, the U18 Cariboo Cougars skated to a split with the North Island Silvertips.

On the ice at Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo, the Cougars lost 7-5 on Saturday but rebounded for a 7-3 victory on Sunday.

In Saturday’s game, the Silvertips scored three times in the final five minutes of the first period, the goals by Henry Toomer, Kai Verbrugge and Cody Black. All three goals were on the power play.

Down 3-0 entering the second period, the Cougars fought back on markers by Carter Hesselgrave (shorthanded), Amar Powar and Chase Pacheco. Before the period was done, Mason Windsor put the home team back in front with yet another power-play goal.

Early in the third, Decker Mujcin made it a 4-4 game while the Cougars were on a power play. Finlay Klippenstein of the Silvertips and Colby Busche of the Cougars then exchanged goals but North Island’s Randy McLaughlin scored a go-ahead goal with 2:52 left on the clock and then Benjamin Groome hit an empty net to seal the victory for the Silvertips.

Felix Plendel was the winning goaltender and Tysen Smith took the loss.

Mujcin had a four-point game for the Cougars.

In Sunday’s rematch, the Cougars turned the tables on the Silvertips and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Parker White notched the only goal of the first period and then Caleb Poitras and Joshua Sale added to the Cariboo advantage with back-to-back shorthanded goals in the opening minute of the second. Jaxon Rich and Kane Law then pulled North Island into 3-2 deficit but Mujcin and Keenan Holland replied for the Cats to give them a 5-2 lead heading into the third.

Toomer got one back for the Silvertips half way through the final frame but Mujcin and Hesselgrave, into an empty net, replied offensively for the Cougars before the final buzzer.

Smith picked up the win between the pipes and Matthew Hutchison was on the losing end.

Mujcin had three points for the Cougars, for seven in the two games, while Holland and Hesselgrave each finished with two points.

The Cougars will host the Valley West Giants next weekend. Their home-openers are set for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, with both games at Kin 1.

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