TRURO - The Cobequid Cougars made life a little easier for themselves Tuesday with their victory over the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Royals.
The Cougars' 3-0 win over their Antigonish rivals clinched first place in the Northumberland Region with a 4-0 record and earned them a bye into the regional final Oct. 16 and 18.
"It's good to lock up first place for sure," said Cougars head coach Jay Foster. "It gets you into the final and guarantees you a (provincial) qualifier if you don't win it. But we want to win it."
If they play like they did in the second half Tuesday, the Cougars have a better than average chance to do so.
The Cougars went into half time with a 1-0 lead, thanks to a goal from striker Josiah McNutt 20 minutes in, in spite of what Foster felt was some sloppy play out of the gate.
During the break, Foster stressed the importance of playing a high energy, tight defensive style and allowing scoring chances to form from it.
"The guys really recommitted to it and we played much better," Foster said.
That they did. The Cougars were able to impose their will even more and McNutt, in the 55th minute, and Lucas Duston, in the 75th minute, put the game out of reach for the Royals.
Tim Trites recorded the clean sheet.
Now the Cougars can focus on getting ready for the regional final, where they'll face the winner of a two-game, total-goal semifinal next week between the Royals and North Nova Gryphons.
The final will also be a two-game, total-goal format.
"It's huge because it gives us a week to practice and get healthy, much better than playing two extra playoff games," Foster said.
Aside from practicing, the Cougars also have an exhibition tilt scheduled with the Halifax West Warriors, an annual contender for the provincial title.
In girls action, the Cougars defeated the Royals 3-1 in Antigonish.
The victory improves the Cougars to 3-0 with their final regular season game set for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at CEC Field against the Royals.
Cheltyn Morgan scored a pair of goals for the Cougars while Kim Duggan netted the other. Ashley Morrell picked up the win, the only blemish on her game coming from a Royals penalty kick in the second half.
"We were really happy with the result," Cougars head coach Trevor Gordon said. "We moved the ball really well and created a lot of chances."