By Peter Kung
Mill Bay (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars opened the 2012-13 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League campaign in convincing fashion, trouncing the host Kerry Park Islanders 10-3 at the Kerry Park Recreation Centre on Saturday night.
In addition to Mark Walton’s natural hat-trick, Sam Rice scored twice while Nathan Chen-Mack, Graham Zagrodney, Rhys Williams, Garrett Brandsma, and Wade Johnson each chipped in with singles.
Kyle Peterson (2) and Tylor Branzsen replied for Kerry Park who is now 0-3-0 on the season following 1-0 and 6-2 losses to the expansion Westshore Wolves and Saanich Braves respectively.
The Cougars were without Christian Black, Dysin Mayo, Daniel Orsborn, and Robert Zadra, all of whom were still at their respective Junior A camps.
Michael Herringer, property of the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League, made 13 saves for the win.
Victoria, who scored seven power play goals, two even strength goals, and one shorthanded goal, led 3-2 after one period and 8-3 after two.
Trailing 2-0, Walton got the Cougars on the board at 13:08 when he put the puck past Islanders starter Jackson Jane. Watching the proceedings from the sin bin were Braden Lundahl and Alex Milligan.
And with Milligan still serving his penalty for tripping, Walton beat Jane short side to tie the game at 2-2. Mere moments before, Brody Coulter saved a goal by poke checking the puck off Peterson’s stick during a one-on-one battle.
A holding penalty to Branzsen with two minutes left in the period would put Kerry Park behind the eight ball yet again. And for Walton, lightning would not only strike twice but three times.
Matthew Ho, who can lay claim to having the shortest surname in Cougars history, rang the puck off the goal post with half a dozen seconds remaining before the first intermission.
It remained 3-2 until the 9:03 mark of the middle frame when Rice cycled through heavy traffic to the slot area and fired the puck past Jane. Exactly two minutes later, Chen-Mack gave Victoria a 5-2 lead after taking a beauty of a pass from Coulter.
Then at 13:31, referee Aaron Keller penalized Zagrodney for hooking. But it would be the Cougars who would capitalize. On an odd man rush, Rice used Coulter as a decoy. After his initial shot was stopped, Rice pounced on his own rebound and stuffed the puck past Jane short side.
A boarding penalty to Brandon Story put Victoria on its fourth power play of the night. With the Cougars already having scored three times with the man advantage, Zagrodney made it a perfect 4-for-4 when his howitzer from the point twinkled the twine at 16:25.
Jane, who allowed seven goals on 40 shots, was replaced by Matt Zenzola.
Peterson cut the deficit to 7-3 after scoring his third goal of the season at 16:52.
But Williams, at 18:26, would restore Victoria’s five goal lead after his point shot was redirected in off a Kerry Park player.
Brandsma, acquired during the offseason from the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, made it 9-3 at 7:04 of the third period before Johnson’s goal at 12:45 would round out the scoring.
After shown the hook against the Braves Friday night, Zenzola made 16-of-19 saves in a relief role.
Peterson opened the scoring at 6:28 on a goal similar to the one scored in Saanich. Shrugging off a defender, Peterson managed to just get enough on his shot to get it through the legs of Herringer.
Then at 10:13, Branzsen beat Herringer from the high slot to put Kerry Park up 2-0.
All three Islander goals were a result of Victoria turnovers.
Branzsen and Zagrodney were involved in a spirited fight late in the game.
The Cougars are now 2-2-0 when starting the regular season on the road. The last time they opened the regular season away from home was eight years ago.
Next game for Victoria is Sunday, September 9 against Westshore. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 3:30 p.m.