Hey there sports fans,
There are currently two Cougars who started the 09/10 season on the Cougars' roster who are now plying their trade in the OHL. Defenseman Anton Zupancic was drafted by the Kitchener Rangers and then traded to the Sarnia Sting before the season even began. Branden Morris played 21 games for the Cougars scoring 4 goals and 14 points before also being snatched up by the Kitchener Rangers.
Anton, who turned 17 this month, played two games with the Sting before getting hurt and has since played 10 games with the Sarnia Legionnaires. He is an aggressive player who doesn't score much but definitely seeks to intimidate the other team.
Branden, who turned 17 in March, is a much more offensive-minded player. In 6 games with the Rangers he has notched 2 assists and has a +2 rating. Solid numbers for a young player in a brand new league.
Defense has been the Cougars' Achilles Heel all season so losing these two players has been a huge blow to the Cougars' back-end. The Cougars lack a consistent goal-scoring presence from the blue line and a tough bruising player who can dish out punishment to the other team's forward and Morris as well as Zupancic would fit the bill perfectly. However, losing your best players to the next level is business as usual in a league focused on development. Situations like these are certainly a double-edged sword and they provide a very good reason to come out and watch these guys play hockey.
Gone are the days of icing squads that simply have the best chance to win. Teams in the newly formed CCHL share a commitment to developing young players to go on to the next level, whether that level is College, University, the OHL or some other upper echelon league. The promotions of Morris and Zupancic are proof of this new reality. The downside is that rosters are composed of younger players who tend to be inconsistent but it also showcases some young players who possess the innate hockey skills to some day become great hockey players and human beings later in life.
You might point out that every team in the CCHL is in the same boat, so citing the goal of development as the reason for a poor record is inaccurate. And if you did you'd be right. The entire management team, from ownership to management to coaches to players, are dissatisfied with the team's slow start and changes are pending or have already been made.
The Peterborough Liftlock Stars come into town tonight as the least active (19 GP) and 3rd lowest scoring team in the entire CCHL. None of their forwards have scored more than 7 goals or 13 points - in comparison the Cougars' top scorers are Adam Place (36 points), Matt Diminie (30 points) and Stefan Thompson (29 points). Clearly, the Cougars hold the edge in just about every offensive category and with three wins in their last five games, one of them against a very good Markham team, the team is showing some signs of life as they look to claw their way out of the basement in the Eastern Division. Peterborough's strength is in net as Zac Fryia has posted solid stats with a .912 save percentage and a 2.99 GAA. The Cougars' scorers will have their work cut out for them if the Stars put him between the pipes tonight.
Puck drops at 7 PM. See you there.