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Locals help lead Cougars Saturday in Virden

Virden hockey fans will have the chance to see top local U15 AAA male players compete on “home” ice.

This weekend Virden hockey fans will have the chance to see top local U15 AAA male players compete on “home” ice.

The Southwest Cougars tangle with the Winnipeg Thrashers Blue squad on Saturday at Tundra Oil & Gas Place. The U15 Cougars are a Souris-based regional squad that competes at the highest level in the province for that age group. Southwest boasts six Virden products this season: Liam Banga, Jake Beaty, Eric Berger, Recklan Gabrielle, Coleton Koop, and Christian Pitz.

Berger and Pitz are in their second seasons with the Cougars. Pitz has been a mainstay on defence, head coach Brett Phillips said. In 26 games, the 5-foot-11, 145-pound blueliner has eight goals and 19 points.

“His skating, vision, puck movement and overall complete game make him an incredibly effective player,” Phillips said. “He is able to play in all situations and provides stability whenever he is on the ice.”

Berger has been a prolific points producer for the Cougars. The 6-foot-1, 156-pound forward has paced the team with 31 goals and 52 points through 26 contests.

“After stepping in last year and creating immediate offence, Eric has continued where he left off and is a threat every time he is on the ice,” Phillips said. “He brings great size, speed and a powerful shot that makes him one of the most dangerous players in the league.”

Gabrielle and Beaty are two young defencemen who have earned valuable ice time at the AAA level this season. The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Gabrielle has two goals and four assists in 26 games.

“Stepping into AAA hockey as a minor on defence is never an easy task but Recklan has done a fantastic job so far,” Phillips said. “He brings great size, a calming presence with the puck along with a powerful shot from the backend.”

Beaty has scored 11 goals and accumulated 19 points in 26 games. Of the 5-foot-9, 150-pound defenceman, Phillips said:

“Jake is a tremendous skater who sees the ice very well. The coaching staff is thrilled with the growth of his game and the potential that he shows going forward.”

Up front, Koop has contributed eight goals and 18 points in 26 games so far in his first U15 AAA season. He is a 5-foot-5, 122-pound athlete.

“Coleton continues to get better each and every game,” Phillips said. “His patience with the puck and his ability to read the ice makes him an asset at both ends of the ice. We look forward to the continuing development of a very effective 200-foot player.”

Banga is one of the protectors of the crease for the Cougars. The 5-foot-3, 114-pounder has a 4.55 goals against average and a .806 save percentage. Phillips said:

“Liam is calm, cool and collected between the pipes. He never seems to panic and has the ability to reset himself no matter the situation. Liam uses his angles, quickness and compete to give us a chance every game.”

Virden’s Rhyse Gabrielle has been in three games with the Cougars as an affiliated player. He has an assist.


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