Photo Courtesy of the Prince George Cougars & Brett Cullen Photography

There are a minimum of three home games each regular season for the Prince George Cougars that I consider “special.”

To start, there’s the home opener in September.

Then, close to the Christmas break, there’s the “Teddy Bear Toss” game in December.

And in mid-March, there’s the “final” home game.

With no playoffs on the horizon, it truly will be the last game of the season for the Cougars, who entertain the Blazers on Saturday after visiting Kamloops tonight (Friday).

Last year, the Cougars needed a point in their final regular season game to secure first place in the BC Division for the first time.

They got that point (a 2-1 shootout loss to the Blazers) to the delight of the hometown crowd of 5,800.

Yes, this season in transition was different.

Thru 70 games, the Cougars sit 23-38-5-4.

They have known since the January 10th trade deadline that the post-season was not in the plans.

This however, doesn’t take away from Fan Appreciate Night, the last game, where a large enthusiastic crowd will be there with the anticipation of giving its team a roaring send-off.

Emotions will be riding high as the curtain closes for six months before another WHL game is played in Prince George.

As the over-age players, Jared Bethune, Aaron Boyd, and Brogan O’Brien will wear a Cougars and a WHL uniform for the final time.

Bethune and Boyd will be completing their fourth season with the Cats, while O’Brien will be wrapping up his third.

All three can be proud of their accomplishments, on and off the ice, while representing themselves, the team and the city with integrity, honesty and high character.

Bethune has 171 points (65G, 106A) in 275 games over his four-year Prince George career.

This season he leads the team in scoring with 65 points (21G, 44A) in 70 games.

He progressed each season and elevated his leadership role once the Cougars traded three key players at the deadline.

Boyd has 85 points (35G, 50A) in 250 games, including 39 points (15G, 24A) in 66 games this season, but his contribution has been much more than offensive stats.

He is one of those hard working honest players that coaches count on in a variety of roles.

O’Brien is the last Prince George player on the team.

In his three seasons with the Cougars, he has 128 points (43G, 75A) in 192 games, a total that includes 39 points (16G, 23A) in 51 games this season.

His story is unique, playing in the Prince George Minor Hockey system, graduating to the Cariboo Cougars, joining the Prince George Spruce Kings, and then completing the cycle moving up to Major Junior with the hometown Cougars.

It’s hard to imagine what O’Brien, his parents and family will be feeling when he steps on to the ice for the final time.

Brogan is a well-respected leader who, like Jared and Aaron, held nothing back, leaving it all on the ice.

Yes, the points count the same as any other regular season game; yes, it’s not necessarily the intensity of a playoff game, but it will be a memorable night on Saturday, March 17th at the CN Centre when the 2017-18 Cougars have their Final Countdown.

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All 16 playoff spots have been spoken for as the WHL enters its final weekend of the regular season.

There’s a chance of some jockeying for positions but the chances are the match-ups as they stand today will end up being the same once Sunday’s league games are done.

The projected match-ups have …

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Seattle (Wild Card #2) vs. Everett (US Division #1)

Tri-City (Wild Card #1) vs. Kelowna (BC Division #1)

(The Rockets, a marvel of consistency, have won 40 games for a sixth straight season [sitting at 41] to capture their sixth BC Division title)

Spokane (US Division #3) vs. Portland (US Division #2)

Vancouver (BC Division #3) vs. Victoria (BC Division #2)

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Prince Albert (Wild Card #2) vs. Moose Jaw (East Division #1)

(The Warriors are Scotty Munroe Memorial Trophy regular season champions for the first time)

Brandon (Wild Card #1) vs. Medicine Hat (Central Division #1)

Regina (East Division #3) vs. Swift Current (East Division #2)

Red Deer (Central Division #3) vs. Lethbridge (Central Division #2)

Two Eastern Conference teams, Red Deer and Prince Albert, came from a long way back to make the playoffs at the expense of two others, Kootenay and Saskatoon, who collapsed.

On January 24th, Red Deer was 12 points behind Kootenay for a playoff spot.

The Ice melted and is the midst of an 11-game losing streak, 10 points behind the third-place Rebels in the Central Division.

On February 19th, with 61 regular season games completed, the Saskatoon Blades were 31-27-2-1, holding down the second wild-card spot by eight points over the Raiders, who were 23-25-9-2 at the time.

Prince Albert, with large contributions from ex-Cougar Kody McDonald (acquired at the trade deadline) is riding an 11 game point streak and is now seven points ahead of the Blades.

McDonald has 29 points (15G, 14A) in 31 games since arriving in PA.

Every season, a team or two, makes a great late season push.

As lower seeds, the Rebels and Raiders, may have a quick playoff exit, but they are hot at the right time, and are riding the wave of the “dark horse.”

 

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

To celebrate last year’s NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors are reportedly meeting with local children in Washington, D.C., instead of visiting President Trump in the White House. It is really nice of the Golden State Warriors to visit a bunch of children instead of just one.

*Late Late Show host James Corden

 

March Madness has officially arrived. Twelve hours a day of college basketball — or as sports fans call it, payback for “The Bachelor.”

*Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon

 

Former SF 49’ers linebacker Gary Plummer says he suffered 2,500 concussions in his NFL career. The good news is that makes him eligible to become NFL Commissioner.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/

 

Reports are that Peyton Manning could make $10 Million a year as an analyst for Fox Sports or ESPN. And that’s before he mentions Budweiser or Papa John’s every 15 minutes.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

 

Last week, the Kansas City Royals hosted an anti-porn seminar. No one attended.

*Conan O’Brien of TBS

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

WWE legend and porn star Sunny was arrested on contempt of court and fugitive charges. She is reportedly in jail, where all holds are barred.

*Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

 

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Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT.
He also is the 94.3 radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca
Follow him on Twitter: @Hartley_Miller