Cougars start new season on a winning note
By JEFF GARD Northumberland Today
Updated 9 hours ago
COBOURG The timing couldn't have been better for the Cobourg Cougars to notch their first win of the 2011/2012 Ontario Junior A Hockey League campaign.
"I think always the hardest win of a season to get is the first one, so I'm happy it happened in our first game," said head coach Justin Teakle, after the Cougars pulled out a 5-4 victory over the Whitby Fury in their regular season opener Monday night.
Not only that, there was a crowd of 1,485 on hand to witness the Cougars first game, and victory, in their new home at the Cobourg Community Centre.
"It was incredible, the fans were great, the band -- SkinDavey -- was great again," said Cougars forward Derek Foote who scored twice in the win. "It was awesome to be a part of this. Hopefully it can be like this year every game and the fans keep showing up like that."
Timing certainly played a role in the victory.
Newly-signed goaltender Keinan Brown arrived in time to back-stop the Cougars with 26 saves in the win.
It took only 4:55 for the first goal (there were four altogether in the first period) in OJHL regular season play at the new CCC to be scored by Cobourg's Justin Danforth on a power play.
Twice the Cougars responded in a timely fashion later in the contest after the Fury had scored big tallies.
Soon after Cobourg took the 1- 0 advantage, Whitby answered back with a pair of power play goals by Chris Raguseo and Jack Lewis stemming from a 5-on-3 man advantage. The Cougars didn't trail for long as Dylan Goddard found the back of the net just nine seconds after the Lewis tally.
Connor Hogg, meanwhile, restored the Cougars lead (3-2) just over a minute into the second period and Derek Foote, with his first of two, scored on a power play before the five-minute mark of the middle frame.
Whitby pulled within one midway through the second on a power play goal by Devin Shore and then evened the score at the 8:08 mark of the second when Sam Gray beat Brown. Once again, the Cougars responded quickly.
A long pass by Franco Loparco met the stick of Foote who went in on a breakaway and deked out Fury netminder Donald Edwards, who faced 23 shots on the night. That goal held up for the Cougars in the victory over Whitby, which won its first game of the season against Peterborough on Sunday.
"It's always nice to rebound quickly," Foote said of the goals, "but we've got to work on some stuff. That was our first game, they've already played one."
Cobourg played just two exhibition games, the last one taking place 10 days earlier.
"We've got to work on our defensive play and just get our game legs underneath us," Foote said. "The first one's always tough. It's great to get out of it with a win and start the season off right."
Whitby was 3-for-10 on power play opportunities while Cobourg went 2-for-4 in its chances. Not a bad start for the Cougars' special team units, though the club struggled at various points of the game, including at even-strength.
"Obviously we need a lot of work on our power play and penalty kill," coach Teakle said. "I would say in all areas of the ice we need to improve."
Teakle was pleased with his goaltending. Brown was originally slated to be the Cougars back-up goaltender last season behind Mathieu Cadieux, but ended up sticking with the Peterborough Petes for awhile before moving on to the Kemptville 73s junior A team when the OHL club acquired a more experienced netminder.
Brown was back at the Petes training camp looking to make the team again this season, but was recently cut. The Cougars worked out a deal with Kemptville, and Brown's card to play for Cobourg was approved Monday afternoon.
"I'm happy that I'm here," Brown said. "Brand new rink and I love all the guys here so it felt great to get on the ice, even though I came a bit late."
While he had hoped to be back in the OHL this year, Brown now looks forward to the opportunity to play in Cobourg.
"Sometimes things don't go your way and you just have to bounce back," he said. "It was upsetting to me, but I'm happy to be here, so I can't complain. We have a great team and I'm excited to be here."
Brown was happy with his outing, despite not being on the ice yet in real game situations. The closest he got was some inter-squad games with the Petes.
"Maybe I could've come out on one of the shots there. I've got to work on my rebounds a bit, too, in tight plays, but I thought the boys came out and had a great game, so we'll regroup next
practice and come out ready for Friday (in Wellington)," Brown said. "That was my first game in a long time, so it felt great to get the 'W' for sure."
Brown is currently part of a three-goalie unit along with Emerson Verrier, who was signed during the offseason and was the backup Monday night, and last year's back-up Krystoff Lyons.
On Monday night, the Cougars were missing two veteran forwards in Nick Marinac and Brett Gilmour who were serving suspensions from the last exhibition game in Peterborough.
Third-year defenceman Jake Flegel has been named captain for this season while Anton Zupancic and Jared Martin, also blueliners, and Foote will serve as assistants.
Opening ceremonies were held prior to Monday's game and included performances by the Concert Band of Cobourg and the Cobourg Legion Pipes and Drums.
Dignitaries on hand included Northumberland-Quinte West MP Rick Norlock, incumbent Liberal candidate Lou Rinaldi, Town of Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier (council members were also in attendance), Ontario Hockey Association president Brent Ladds and OJHL commissioner Marty Savoy. Town Crier Tom MacMillan was also a part of the ceremony.
When the official puck dropped, the Cougars eventually settled in en route to the victory.
"I thought we had a little bit of rust," Teakle said, "and obviously I think a lot of these guys had a little bit of jitters with, I don't know how many people were there, but the place was pretty packed. All in all, we pulled together and we got a win. You have to find times to bear down. That's what good teams have to do."