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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
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Saanich, BC (ISN) – The Saanich Braves had goals from six different players as they marched to a dominating 7-2 win over the Peninsula Panthers in Game 1 of their VIJHL semi-final Monday at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

Hoping to ride the momentum from their big Game 6 win over Oceanside last Friday, the Panthers went with call-up goalie Stephen Heslop in net, while the Braves countered with regular Tanner McGaw who was back in the line-up after taking ill for the final game last week against Campbell River.

Both goalies held their own early, as each team would have good scoring chances, but it was a rookie mistake by Heslop that allowed the Braves to take a 1-0 lead at the 14:04 mark of the period.

With the Panthers on the power-play, and following two good scoring chances that were denied by McGaw, the Braves cleared the puck down the ice. As Heslop came out to the boards to play it, strong forecheck pressure from Saanich’s Josh McGladery made Heslop rush his clearing pass, partially fanning on it and allowing McGladery to pick up the loose puck. He then chipped it over to a streaking and unattended Sheldon Trees who buried it past Heslop who was scrambling to get back into position.

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Sheldon Trees would open the scoring for Saanich with a short-handed marker at the 14:04 mark of the first period (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN). 

The Braves would use that goal as momentum and add to their lead less than four minutes later, when once again some hard work by McGladery on the forecheck freed up a lose puck that Nick Vanstone was then able to slide along the ice and under the pads of Heslop for the 2-0 lead.

The Panthers would push back a bit near the end of the period, eventually outshooting the Braves 9-8, but McGaw would hold strong and keep the score 2-0 at the break.

The second period began with the Panthers showing a bit of jump and pressing the Braves in their own end, but once again, two solid saves by McGaw kept the Braves with their two goal lead.

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Saanich’s Shawn McBride controls the puck under pressure from Peninsula’s Tyler Porteous during action Monday. McBride would later score his first goal of the playoffs to help the Brave’s to their 7-2 win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

At the 5:18 mark, the Braves would score again, when an initial point shot by Tyler Smith was stopped by Heslop, but Sheldon Trees managed to dig out the rebound, tapping it to Matt Biagioni, who then buried it by the Panther goalie, giving the Braves the 3-0 lead.

After a few minutes of fairly even play, Saanich would add yet another goal with 8:48 remaining in the period, when Ty Jones would break in off the wing and blast a howitzer that caught the arm of Heslop and dribbled into the net for his 11th of the playoffs. That would spell the end of the night for the young Heslop, as he was replaced by backup Kyler Stern.

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Andrew White and the rest of the Saanich Braves made life tough on Panther goaltender Stephen Heslop, chasing him from the nets after scoring 4 goals on 16 shots (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The goaltending change sparked the Panthers as they would finally get on board on the power-play with just under five minutes remaining in the period, as Joe Densmore would get one past McGaw.

However the Braves would restore their four goal lead with just ten seconds remaining in the period, as Sam McMullen finished off a beautiful three-way passing play with Connor Krupa and Andrew White by snapping a shot to the top corner to give braves 5-1 lead at the break.

In the third period, the Panthers looked to begin a comeback when Dane Gibson would notch a power-play marker at the 3:20 mark to make the score 5-2.

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Peninsula’s Joe Densmore would factor in on both Panther goals Monday, scoring one and assisting on the second (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Immediately after that goal however, on the face-off, the Panther’s Jake Bryan was called for somewhat phantom, albeit undisciplined slashing penalty and the Braves would capitalize on this when Jones would score his second of the night and 12th of the playoffs just 37 seconds into the ensuing Braves power-play to make the score 6-2.

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Saanich’s Ty Jones would score his 11th and 12th goals of the playoffs Monday in the 7-2 win over Peninsula (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Another undisciplined penalty to the Panthers for kneeing, a mere 25 seconds after the Jones goal, led to yet another Saanich power-play goal, as Shawn McBride notched his first of the playoffs to give the Braves a commanding 7-2 lead.

Following that, the Panthers would become a bit undisciplined, taking another 8 minutes in minor penalties and 2 misconducts over the remainder of the game, effectively throwing in the towel and hoping to regroup for Game 2 Wednesday night.

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Saanich’s James Kellington would dangle his way to two assists in Monday’s game (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Saanich Head Coach Brad Cook was not entirely happy with the team’s slow start to the game, but was definitely happy with the result, “I thought we came out timid in the first period, which you can expect given our young players and our tough win in Campbell River last week, but I was really happy with our response in the last half of the first period and especially in the second. I think we set the tone there and brought our game to them in that period.”

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Peninsula’s Iver Oedegaard carries the puck out of his own end ahead of Saancih’s Ty Jones during Monday night’s action (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

“Our discipline and execution was good and we shut down their top players, but I really don’t want to get too excited, as it’s only one game and there is a long way to go still. Overall, I was happy with the team effort, but we’ll have to be ready for them again Wednesday.”

Game 2 in the series goes Wednesday night at 7:30pm at Pearkes Arena.

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Peninsula’s Trevor Yee assisted on both Panther goals Monday evening (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).