Cougars Begin VIJHL Playoffs With 4-3 Win Over Kerry Park

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By Peter Kung

Victoria (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then hung on to defeat the Kerry Park Islanders 4-3 in Game 1 of their VIJHL semi-final series Sunday afternoon at Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt.

It looked as though Sunday’s playoff game between the Kerry Park Islanders and Victoria Cougars was going to end in a rout.

So it seemed.

After outshooting Kerry Park 19-5 and taking a three goal lead into the first intermission, the hometown Cougars ended up hanging on for a 4-3 win to draw first blood in the opener of their best-of-seven series.

Victoria led 3-0 after one period and 3-1 after two.

But by the time the third period rolled around, the hometown Cougars got a little too complacent. And the road weary Islanders seized the opportunity despite sitting in the penalty box for most of the game.

Kerry Park, physical by nature, was overly aggressive on Sunday. Not taking into account Kyle Peterson’s double minor for spearing at the end of the game, Victoria had 14 powerplays and made good on only two of them.

For having the No. 1 ranked powerplay in the seven-team Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League during the regular season, going 2-for-14 was unacceptable.

The Islanders, fresh off their Game 7 upset victory over the Comox Valley Glacier Kings last night, were hooting and hollering from the time they came out of their dressing room to the opening faceoff.

But the rambunctiousness soon wore off as Victoria, who had two weeks off, came with guns blazing.

Trevor Chown, the recipient of a slash that knocked his glove clean off his hand late in the first period, opened the scoring at 7:50 on the powerplay when his point shot beat surprise starter Jackson Jane.

Jane, who posted a goals against average of 2.49 and a save percentage of .931 against the Cougars during the regular season, got the start over last night’s hero Matt Chester.

In the game against Comox Valley, Chester made 46 saves which included turning aside all 33 shots through the first two periods.

Connor Stephens made it 2-0 after tipping home a Steve Axford point shot at 12:16.

Kerry Park nullified a late powerplay when Brad Scafe and his troops were called for too many men on the ice. Playing four-on-four, Nathan Chen-Mack scored from Robert Zadra and Jake Stolz with 1:16 remaining in the period.

It remained 3-0 in favour of Victoria until the 18:33 mark of the second period when Clay Carson’s deflection ruined Bryce Halverson’s shutout bid.

The penalties kept mounting for the Islanders. Referee Riley Friesen issued Cole Peterson an interference penalty and Brandon Nicholson a slashing penalty at the 20 minute mark to put the Cougars on a two-man advantage to begin the third period.

Subsequently, Kerry Park killed off the penalties and the momentum began to shift.

But a tripping penalty to Cole Thomson put a temporary halt to the momentum shift when he was caught for tripping Kurtis Kunz at centre ice.

With Thomson watching the proceedings from the sin bin, Chris Bannister banged home a loose puck at the side of the net to put Victoria up 4-1. Assisting on the goal, which was scored at 3:57, was Mark Walton and Chown.

Thomson atoned for his mistake midway through the period when his shot from a sharp angle fooled Halverson.

Then with 2:18 left in regulation, Jane was pulled for an extra attacker. The move paid off as Jake Newman deflected a Josh Garneau shot past Halverson with 1:07 remaining.

Suddenly it was a one goal game.

However, Nicholson put the Islanders back on the penalty kill after he took a checking-to-the-head penalty 11 seconds later.

And despite being on the powerplay, the Cougars were under siege in the final minute of play. Halverson, who faced a game total of 21 shots, came up with two huge saves as Kerry Park pressed for the tying goal.

With time winding down, Bannister got possession of the puck and backhanded it out past the blue line.

Jane, who was named the game’s third star, made 37-of-41 saves.

Game 2 goes Tuesday, March 6 in Mill Bay. Game time at the Kerry Park Recreation Centre, located at 1035 Shawnigan Mill Bay Road, is 7:30 p.m.

THREE STARS:

1st star, Trevor Chown (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

2nd star, Chris Bannister (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

3rd star, Jackson Jane (Saves: 37, Save Percentage: .902)

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