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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Saanich, BC (ISN) – Ty Jones had a pair of goals, while Sam McMullen and James Kellington added singles to lead the Saanich Braves to a 4-1 win over the Campbell River Storm in VIJHL playoff action Wednesday evening.

The road to the VIJHL Championship is never an easy one for any team and that was certainly the case for the second seeded Saanich Braves in their VIJHL playoff opener Wednesday evening, as they had their hands full with the upset minded Campbell River Storm, before scoring two late goals, including an empty netter, to emerge with a 4-1 victory.
After both teams played a close checking game through the first part of period one, the Braves would finally catch a break with 11:40 remaining in the first period, as James Kellington would break in unchecked off the wing and fire a low howitzer past Storm starting goaltender Nick Babich to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
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Saanich’s James Kellington reacts after scoring the Brave’s first goal on Wednesday evening.
The Braves would add to that lead in the second period as Sam McMullen would notch a power play marker at the 7:10 mark, tipping a Shawn McBride point shot, up and over the glove of Babich.
Campbell River would keep at the Braves and would get on the board with a power play marker of their own, as Dane Feeney would take a pass from Kaydon Trumbley and snap a shot past McGaw with 9:25 remaining to make the score 2-1.
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Saanich’s Sam McMullen was full of jump all night, earning first star honours, and scoring the Brave’s second goal of the evening.
A bit of controversy then ensued, as the Braves thought they went up 3-1 late in the period when Jack Palmer took a pass in the slot and made a beauty of a deke to beat Babich and put the puck in the open net.
However in attempting to make the save, Babich’s skate slightly pushed one of the posts off its mooring and because the net technically was off when the puck crossed the line, the referee disallowed the goal much to the chagrin of Brave Head Coach Brad Cook and the rest of the team.
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Saanich rookie Jack Palmer would have a solid evening, earning two assists and scoring a beauty of a goal that was disallowed when the net came off it’s mooring just prior to the puck crossing the line.
The close checking game would continue throughout the third period, with the Storm continuing to battle the Braves hard, throwing a number of good chances toward Saanich starter Tanner McGaw.
They could not capitalize however and with 8:19 remaining, Ty Jones would give Saanich some breathing room as he banged home a nice centering feed from Connor Krupa to give the Braves a 3-1 lead.
After that goal, both teams began to get a bit chippy with one another and with 1:16 remaining, the Braves received a double minor that put the Storm on the power play.
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Saanich Captain Ty Jones would score the Braves third and fourth goals Wednesday, including an empty netter with two seconds remaining, to secure the Braves 4-1 win over Campbell River.
Pulling their goalie for an extra attacker, the Storm had a few chances but were unable to get anything past McGaw and with two seconds remaining Ty Jones picked up a clearing pass and tapped it into the empty net to secure the 4-1 win.
Head Coach Brad Cook was pleased with his team’s performance, especially given the inherent nerves that are present for game one of a playoff series. “It was a good start for us and I was very happy with our first period, especially with all the emotions all over the place. For some guys it’s their last go around and for a few others it’s their first junior playoff action. Emotions were high and sometimes that can hurt you, but we did a good job of keeping that in check.”
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Saanich’s Jordan Groenhyde carries the puck into the attacking zone Wednesday. Groenhyde would earn an assist on Saanich’s first goal.
“In the second period we got away from our game a bit, but a few guys made some good plays and Tanner made some big saves. Our penalty kill was also outstanding tonight. Campbell River gave us exactly what we expected tonight and they competed hard and stayed right with us for most of the game. We tended to control the play physically however and at the end of the day that was probably the difference in the game.”
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Saanich’s Sheldon Trees used his speed to good advantage Wednesday, notching an assist on the Braves second goal.
Sam McMullen was named first star of the game for his goal and solid play all night. James Kellington, with the Braves forst goal was star number two and Ty Jones with his two goals, was star number three. McGaw finished with 24 saves on 25 shots, while his counterpart Babich had 24 saves on 27 shots.
The Braves join Peninsula and Comox who also hold 1-0 leads in their opening round series. On Tuesday night, the Glacier Kings defeated Kerry Park 7-3 and also on Wednesday, Peninsula won a barn-burner over Oceanside 6-5.
Game 2 in the series goes Friday night at 6:30 at Pearkes Arena.
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Campbell Rivers Alex Benjestorf carries the puck out of his own end Wednesday evening.