The Victoria Cougars started off the New Year with a bang, albeit five days late.
Having not played since Dec. 22, Victoria shrugged off some first period rust before cruising to a 5-1 victory over the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on a wet and windy Thursday night.
The Cougars, which improved to 25-5-0-1, won their fifth straight game and ninth in a row at the Archie Browning Sports Centre.
Chris Bannister scored twice while Mark Walton, Josh Wyatt, and Jacob Nixon each added singles.
Trevor Chown, named the game’s first star, had three assists.
Comox Valley lost the game on the penalty kill. Referee Riley Friesen was busy, whistling the Glacier Kings for nine infractions. To make matters worse, Victoria scored three of its five goals on the powerplay.
There was no scoring until the 4:02 mark of the second period when Walton deflected a Steve Axford point shot past goalie Cameron Large. Looking on from the sin bin was Jed Martin who had served only 18 seconds of his tripping penalty.
A couple of minutes later, Axford came close to doubling the lead but his slap shot from the high slot rang off the right goal post.
Large, who faced a total of 42 shots, came up big midway through the period when he flashed the leather to rob Brody Coulter – the league’s leading scorer.
The Cougars went ahead 2-0 at 11:47 when Bannister banged home a rebound for his first of two goals. Large made the initial save off Walton who had broken free on a partial breakaway.
With six minutes remaining in the middle frame, Wade Johnson gobbled up a loose puck from just inside the Comox Valley blueline. Looking to score his third goal in as many games, Johnson squandered the opportunity when he missed the net with his shot.
Bryce Halverson received his fourth straight start in net for Victoria. The native of Calgary, Alberta, made 21 saves to improve to 4-0-0-0. Just prior to Johnson’s scoring chance, Halverson robbed Jackson Garrett of a goal by hugging the near post.
Garrett, who trailed Coulter by seven points in league scoring, was held off the score sheet for the second game in a row.
Firing on all cylinders, the Cougars roared out to a 3-0 lead at 3:51 of the third period. After leaving defenseman Brian Rideout flatfooted, Sam Rice centered the puck out to Bannister who beat Large between the legs.
Desmond Bast was in the penalty box at the time of Bannister’s tenth goal of the season.
After the goal, Rideout shattered his stick against the plexiglass that was located above the player’s tunnel.
70 seconds later, Coulter and Wyatt broke in on an odd man rush. Waiting patiently for the Glacier Kings defender to commit, Coulter feathered the puck over to Wyatt who roofed it over Large’s glove.
With another point, Coulter’s streak now stands at 18 games.
Lee Orpen ruined Halverson’s shutout bid on a delayed penalty at 10:42.
Frustration set in with just over four minutes remaining in regulation when Garrett Brandsma received a hit-to-the-head penalty and a ten-minute misconduct. Nixon rounded out the scoring six seconds later after deflecting Ryan Parmar’s point shot past Large.
Comox Valley, which fell to 16-12-0-3, lost its sixth consecutive road game. During that span, the Glacier Kings have been outscored 26-10.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, Jan. 6 against the Peninsula Panthers. Game time at the Panorama Recreation Centre, located at 1885 Forest Park Drive, is 7:30 p.m.
1st star, Trevor Chown (Goals: 0, Assists: 3)
2nd star, Chris Bannister (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
3rd star, Rhys Williams (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)