Story and Photos by Christian J Stewart – (christianjstewart.zenfolio.com)
Saanich, BC – Inspired by Captain Ty Jones with a pair of goals (including the game winner), plus a great cause – – the annual Pink in the Rink breast cancer fundraiser – the Saanich Junior Braves overcame a 3-2 deficit to score three third period goals and defeat the league leading Victoria Cougars 5-3 Friday night in VIJHL action at Pearkes Arena.
Rough Start for the Braves
The game started ominously for the Braves as early penalty trouble saw the Cougars score a pair of power-play goals – one each by Ryan Parmar and Captain Brody Coulter – to take a 2-0 lead with just under thirteen minute remaining in the first period.
The Braves quickly took yet another penalty after this, but the penalty kill team, and some solid saves by the Braves Bowman Rutledge – starting in place of an injured Tanner McGaw – killed it off effectively and kept the score at 2-0.
This seemed to inspire the Braves and with 6:30 remaining in the period, Saanich’s Sheldon Trees scored his ninth goal of the season to pull the Braves within one.
The score remained 2-1 for most of the second period until the kind of luck that has been plaguing the Braves at home so far this season struck again.
With the Braves on a five on three powerplay, the Braves Brandon Parmar took a pass high in the slot and just when he was ready to shoot, hit a rut in the ice and stumbled, allowing the Cougars Samuel Rice to break cleanly down the ice. Rice somehow managed to sneak the puck past Rutledge for the short-handed marker and the Cougars were up 3-1.
On most nights at home so far this season, a goal like that would break the young Braves, but not tonight. Remaining patient on their continuing power play, Ty Jones would get his first of the night just over a minute later, when he chipped the puck up and over a sprawling Evan Roch, the Cougar’s starting goalie.
Braves’ Luck Changes in the 3rd..
The third period was an evenly matched affair until the Braves got some much needed luck of their own. Rookie Jack Palmer – just back from playing a pair of games with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings – jumped on a loose puck and sped down the ice on a breakaway, deftly sneaking it by Roch to tie it up with 11:26 to play.
The good fortune continued for the Braves and with just over five minutes remaining, Ty Jones moved in on the left wing and blasted a slap shot at the net that managed to elude Roch and find the bottom corner, giving him his second goal of the night, and the Braves the critical 4-3 lead.
The Cougars continued to pressure however, and with their goalie out, had a few good scoring chances on Rutledge, but the Braves Jaden Schmeisser cleared the puck down the ice and into the empty net with thirty-four seconds to play, sealing the exciting 5-3 victory for the Braves.
Rutledge was cleary thrlled with the victory, jumping into his teammates arms at the end of the game. “It feels awesome, I can’t even describe it. These guys [Victoria] are are our are arch-enemy and we don’t post too many wins against them, but tonight my defensemen were awesome, blocking a ton of shots, and we all came together as a team to take these guys down.”
“I really wanted this win like nobody’s business. I was very happy at the end. This win will make it a great weekend!”
Head Coach Brad Cook was equally pleased with his charges. “This absolutely feels good. Any time you can come out for a special event like tonight is awesome and the win, in front of our home crowd, especially against a team that is probably one of the best in Junior B hockey, is just icing on the cake.”
“Our third period this season so far has been our achilles heel, and to see the boys make things happen in the third period tonight, and come from behind to win the game, was awesome for us as a coaching staff to see. Everyone did their job and helped in our own end to make it easy on Bowman. The boys really pulled up their bootstraps and went out and proved themselves against a really good hockey team…what a good feeling that was for them.”
Following the game, the Braves special pink jerseys were auctioned off to the highest bidders and the players stripped them off their backs and handed them to the winners on the spot. All proceeds from the night’s event will go to support Breast Cancer research.