Victoria Cougars host the Saanich Braves this Thursday

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Peter Kung

The Victoria Cougars close out their pre-Christmas schedule when they host the Saanich Braves this Thursday.

Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:15 p.m.

Mark Van Helvoirt and his troops do not return to game action until January 5.

Thursday night’s game features five of the top eight scorers in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

Brody Coulter leads the way with 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points. The Victoria captain is also riding a 16 game point streak.

Also in the top eight are Steve Axford (18-27-45) and Sam Rice (8-29-37).

In their last meeting, which so happens to be the last game for both teams, the visiting Cougars scored six second period goals en route to an 8-3 blasting of Saanich last Friday. It was redemption for Victoria as it had lost its last two games at the George R. Pearkes Community Recreation Centre by scores of 5-3 and 4-2.

The Cougars (23-5-1), which led 2-1 after one period, received a pair of goals from Chris Bannister while Connor Stephens, Wade Johnson, Nathan Chen-Mack, Jacob Nixon, Axford, and Rice each added singles.

Bryce Halverson made his second straight start in net for Victoria. Acquired from the Strathmore Wheatland Kings of the Heritage League over a week ago, the six-foot-three, 185-pound goalie is 2-0-0 since his arrival.

Victoria is 12-1-1 at the A.B.S.C., where it has won seven games in a row.

Ty Jones leads the Braves (13-11-3) with 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points and sits third in league scoring. Jack Palmer, selected 175th overall by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2010 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, rounds out the top eight with 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points.

After winning seven straight, Saanich has dropped four of its past six games.

In their game against Victoria, the Braves were outshot 19-8 in the first period, 24-4 in the second, and 9-8 in the third for a game total of 52-20.

Sheldon Trees scored twice while Jones also lit the lamp for Saanich.

Getting the start in goal for the Braves was Tanner McGaw who was replaced after allowing five goals on 25 shots. Bowman Rutledge made 24 saves in relief which included stopping all nine shots in the third period.

Saanich returns to the ice Jan. 6 for the start of a home-and-home series with the Kerry Park Islanders.

STANDINGS: Victoria – 1st place, 47 points, South Island Division. Saanich – 2nd place, 29 points, South Island Division

TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Brody Coulter, 24 goals; Brody Coulter, 30 assists; Robert Zadra, 103 penalty minutes. Saanich – Ty Jones, 23 goals; Ty Jones, 24 assists; Josh McGladery, 85 penalty minutes

GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Evan Roch (2.81 goals against average, .889 save percentage); Bryce Halverson (3.48 goals against average, .857 save percentage). Saanich – Tanner McGaw (3.59 goals against average, .903 save percentage); Bowman Rutledge (3.87 goals against average, .882 save percentage)

SEASON SERIES: Cougars lead, 4-2-0

PAST RESULTS/FUTURE MEETINGS:

September 29, 2011. Saanich Braves 2 @ Victoria Cougars 8

October 14, 2011. Victoria Cougars 3 @ Saanich Braves 2

October 27, 2011. Saanich Braves 2 @ Victoria Cougars 5

October 28, 2011. Victoria Cougars 3 @ Saanich Braves 5

November 25, 2011. Victoria Cougars 2 @ Saanich Braves 4

December 16, 2011. Victoria Cougars 8 @ Saanich Braves 3

February 2, 2012. Saanich Braves @ Victoria Cougars

HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 12-1-1. Saanich – Away, 5-7-0

STREAKS: Victoria, 3-0-0. Saanich, 0-2-0

LAST TEN: Victoria, 8-2-0. Saanich, 6-4-0

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