Steve Axford had a season high five-points as the Victoria Cougars blanked the Oceanside Generals 5-0 in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action Thursday night.
Axford, who previously had three four-point games, moved to within a point of teammate Brody Coulter and Ty Jones of the Saanich Braves for the league scoring title. Both Coulter and Jones have 68 points apiece.
It was the second time this season that Victoria has blanked the Generals. Back on September 8, in the season opener for both teams, the Cougars won convincingly 9-0.
Garnering third star honours Thursday was goaltender Bryce Halverson. The 18-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, who came into the game with a league leading 2.00 goals against average and .918 save percentage, made 25 saves which included stopping a second period penalty shot.
With the Cougars leading 3-0, Luciano Somerville broke in on a shorthanded breakaway only to be hooked from behind by a Victoria defender. Wasting little time, referee Jordy Davis pointed to centre ice. After skating wide left, Somerville darted down the middle of the ice and instead of finding the back of the net he fired the puck directly into Halverson’s pads.
Victoria (33-5-0-1) opened the scoring at 9:52 of the first period when Josh Wyatt took a goal mouth pass from Sam Rice and beat starting goalie Michael Gudmandson. Travis Briggs came within inches of tying the game two minutes later after he rang the puck off the iron.
Penalties would haunt Oceanside as the Cougars would score their remaining goals on the powerplay. Axford scored his first of two when his point shot through traffic rippled the twine at 14:58. The score remained 2-0 until the 12:59 mark of the second period when Walton banged home an Axford rebound from the side of the net. Then with less than two minutes remaining in the period, Rice fed the puck to Axford who one-timed it for his 25th goal of the season. Rhys Williams rounded out the scoring at 7:52 of the third.
Victoria went 4-for-6 with the man advantage while successfully killing off all three Generals powerplays which included a five minute major assessed to Wade Johnson. Gudmandson stopped 31-of-36 shots while his replacement Joshua Alalouf turned aside all three shots he faced in eleven minutes and 51-seconds of work.
Oceanside (18-18-0-2) remained two points back of the No. 3 seed Saanich Braves and five points back of the No. 2 seed Comox Valley Glacier Kings. The Generals are winless in their last four games on the road.
Next game for the Cougars is Friday, February 10 against the Peninsula Panthers. Game time at the Panorama Recreation Centre, located at 1885 Forest Park Drive, is 7:30 p.m
THREE STARS: 1st star, Steve Axford (Goals: 2, Assists: 3) 2nd star, Mark Walton (Goals: 1, Assists: 1 3rd star, Bryce Halverson (Saves: 25, Save Percentage: 1.000)