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International tourney win a 'dream come true' for Whitehorse player

The Prince George Cariboo Cougars scratched their names into the history books last week and Whitehorse's Alex Hanson was part of it.

The Prince George Cariboo Cougars scratched their names into the history books last week and Whitehorse’s Alex Hanson was part of it.

Hanson and the Cougars made good use of a wild card spot, winning the Mac’s AAA Midget Tournament in Calgary last Thursday.

Not only was it the team’s first time winning the huge international tournament that saw teams from across Canada, the U.S. and even Europe compete, it was their first time making it past the quarterfinal.

“It was just an incredible experience - a dream come true,” said Hanson. “I’ve watched that tournament final on TV the last two or three years, watched teams like the Northwest Giants and Team Finland win it, and just to be in that game was incredible. And to win at the end was even cooler.”

The Cougars notched back-to-back overtime wins for the prestigious title.

They clinched the title with a 2-1 double-overtime win over the Regina Pat Canadians in the final.

They narrowly topped the Calgary Buffaloes with a 5-4 overtime win in the semi.

“It was pretty intense,” said Hanson. “But the boys came through, clenched out.”

The Cougars barely made the playoffs at all. They finished the round robin with a 3-1 record, taking the third and last wild card spot based on goal differential. They beat the Lethbridge Hurricanes 6-3, lost 4-2 to the Calgary Northstars, went 3-1 over Saskatchewan’s Battlefords Stars and 5-3 over Ontario’s Markham Waxers.

They opened their playoff run with a sound 5-1 win over the German U17 Nationals in the quarterfinal.

Hanson is a third-year midget playing his first season with the Cougars. The 17-year-old, who plays third and fourth line centre for the team, was on the Dawson Creek Trackers last season.

He didn’t log any goals or assists in the Mac’s tourney, but “there were some close chances, a couple bounces that didn’t happen,” he said.

The championship title in Calgary is just the latest accomplishment for the B.C. Major Midget League team.

The Cougars so far have a 22-3-1 record for first place in the league and are a full nine points ahead of second place’s Okanagan Rockets.

“We have a lot of depth, a lot of guys who are great hockey players,” said Hanson. “Good guys from top to bottom. We’re a tight-knit group; everybody likes each other and we all get along really well.”

The Cougars are hoping to make the Telus Cup - Canada’s midget hockey championship - their final destination for the season. The team is primed to finish first in their league’s regular season, are favourites in the playoffs that start in March, and will need some big wins over their neighbours to the east to make it happen.

“We just go weekend by weekend, game by game, and we’ll just try to finish first in the league and get home ice advantage for playoffs,” said Hanson. “We then need to beat the Alberta champions to get to the Telus championships. That’s our focus right now.”

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