By Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
The Saanich Braves Midget Tier 4 hockey club is heading to the Provincial Midget Tier 4 Championships for the second straight season after an exciting 4-2 win over the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies on Saturday.
With the win, the Braves captured the Island Championship series two games to one, having previously beat the Grizzlies 5-1 last Saturday and losing 5-4 last Sunday.
In Game 3 action Saturday, Ben Tomley played the hero, scoring two goals, including a third period breakaway that provided an insurance marker in a tight one-goal game. Also scoring for the Braves were Derek Morgan and Troy Philip, while Jason Stewart made 37 saves between the pipes to get the win.
As was the case in all three games of the series, the Braves were scored upon first Saturday, as the Grizzlies Stephan Roger picked up a loose puck and beat Saanich goaltender Jason Stewart on the stick side for the 1-0 lead at the 9:32 mark of the first period.
The Braves would tie things up before the end of the period however, as hard-working Derek Morgan found a way to push one past Grizzlie starting goaltender Tailor Meszaros in a goal mouth scramble with 1:40 remaining.
The Braves would jump into the lead just 29 seconds into the second period as a point shot by Philip was tipped in by Tomley for his first goal of the game.
The Grizzlies would tie things up later courtesy of a 5-on-3 power-play as Roger would pot his second of the game with 7:07 remaining.
The Braves managed to kill off the remainder of the 5-on-3 and shortly thereafter, with 4:17 remaining in the period, Brave Captain Philip wired a point shot past Meszaros, putting the Braves back up 3-2.
In the third period, the Grizzlies ramped up their attack and began to take the play to Saanich, but goaltender Stewart, who would finish with 37 saves on the day, was equal to the task and made some solid saves to keep the Braves up by a goal.
Then with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game, Saanich’s Tomley made the Grizzlies pay for a critical turnover as he received a pass from Austin Hache, and broke in alone, putting a low shot through the five-hole of Meszaros to get the insurance marker for the Braves.
The Grizzlies would get one last kick at things with a power-play chance, and the goalie out for an extra attacker, but they would not be able to score and the Braves emerged with the big 4-2 win.
In addition to the goals by Tomley, Philip and Morgan, Greg Solomon and Austin Hache also had strong games for the Braves, earning two assists each.
With the win, the Braves advance to the Midget Tier 4 Provincials which will be held over March Break in Nakusp.
This will mark the second straight year that the Braves have gone to the Tier 4 Provincials, having surprised many last season by making it to the Provincial final, only to come away with a silver medal after a heart-breaking loss to Surrey.
Current Brave players Stewart, Philip, Robbie Rhynas, Kyle Murai and Solomon were all part of that team last year and will be looking to avenge that loss and come away with gold this year.
Congratulations boys and good luck at Provincials.