Saanich Braves full color logo

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Nakusp, B.C. (ISN) – After dropping a disappointing 8-1 decision to the Kelowna Rockets Monday morning, the Saanich Braves responded with a hard-earned 3-3 tie against the host Nakusp Falcons to stay in the mix at the BC Hockey Midget Tier 4 Provincials.

In the morning affair against Kelowna, the undisciplined Braves would take over 68 minutes in penalties in what many, including the Kelowna faithful, considered a questionably refereed game.

Nevertheless, the Rockets would make the Braves pay dearly for their sins, scoring five times on the power-play. They would also score the first goal of the game on a short-handed opportunity early in the first period.

IMG 7375
Saanich defender Kyle Murai and goaltender Jason Stewart got to know Kelowna’s Jesse Pankiw really well Monday, as Pankiw spent most of the numerous Rocket power-play opportunities causing havoc in the Brave’s crease (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

As one might expect given the time they spent in the penalty box, the Braves could never get on track, and if it were not for the play of goaltender Jason Stewart, who faced near 55 shots in the game, the score could have been much worse.

IMG 7320
Despite the 8-1 loss, saves like this first period pad save by Saanich goaltender Jason Stewart kept things from being much worse in the Brave’s Monday morning game (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Braves were able to crack the Rocket defence just once on a third-period goal by Ben Tomley, but it was way too little and way too late for the Braves in this one.

In the evening affair, the Braves had the pleasure of not only battling a tough Nakusp team, who on Sunday defeated Ft. St. James 3-1 and destroyed Chetwynd 10-1, but also battling the entire town that seemed to fill the Nakusp arena.

It was the Braves though who seemed to thrive off the home team energy and just 2:37 into the game, Nick Tumber mad a nice pass to Hayle Kincross who buried a top corner shot past the Nakusp goalie, silencing the big crowd and giving the Braves a surprising 1-0 lead.

The Falcons would keep applying pressure though, and thanks to some stellar goaltending by Saanich’s Taylor Findlay, could not find a way to score.

This would change however with 5:56 remaining in the period, as once again the Braves would pay the price for taking a penalty, as Nakusp’s Ryan Bateman would be left alone in the slot and he would take a pass from Daman Devlin and snap one over the glove of Findlay to make the score 1-1 and bring the crowd back into the game.

In the second period, the Braves would start strong and Nakusp would push back, but neither team could break the deadlock and the score remained tied through the first nine minutes.

With just under 12:00 to play in the period, it was Nakusp who would find themselves in a bit of penalty trouble, however they would catch a break when Saanich would turn the puck over at the blue line and Dylan Hascari would break in and score to put the Falcons up 2-1.

Just two minutes later, the Falcons would strike again, when Devlin would break in hard off the wing past a Braves defender. His first shot was saved by Findlay, but Devlin followed up on the rebound and buried it, putting the Falcons up 3-1.

Just when it appeared that Nakusp would use the energy of their fans to break open a close game, the Braves struck back. With 5:27 remaining in the period, Saanich’s Nick Tumber won an attacking zone faceoff cleanly back to defenceman Robbie Rhynas and he blasted it past the Falcon goaltender to cut the lead to one.

IMG 7430
Saanich’s Robbie Rhynas would score a big goal for the Braves during their 3-3 tie with Nakusp Monday evening (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Inspired by that goal, the Braves kept pushing and with 1:36 remaining in the period, Saanich’s Greg Solomon finished off a mad goal mouth scramble by shoving the puck in to knot the score at three and once again bring a hush to the partisan Nakusp crowd.

The third period of this game was perhaps the most entertaining period of hockey at the tournament so far, with both teams having good chances to score and both goalies making key saves to keep the score tied.

Saanich would get a power-play with 7:39 remaining but failed to capitalize and that seemed to motivate the Falcons as they then pretty much carried the play the final five minutes of the game. Saanich’s Findlay was equal to the task though, making a number of quick pad saves and also using his goal-post with just under 3:00 remaining to stop the most dangerous Falcon scoring attempt and preserving the exciting 3-3 tie.

IMG 7291
Saanich netminder Taylor Findlay would stand tall in the nets Monday evening, preserving a well earned tie for his Braves team against Nakusp (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

With the tie, the Braves sit at 1-1-1 for the tournament and will effectively need to win their final two games and get some help to have a decent shot at first or second and a trip to the Championship game. Nakusp (2-0-1), Kelowna (2-0-0) and Ft. St. James (2-1-0) all are currently ahead of Saanich in the standings, while Chetwynd is 0-3-0. The Braves play a big game with Ft. St. James Tuesday at 2:00 pm and wrap up the round robin against Chetwynd Wednesday morning.