Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
November 23, 2012, Saanich, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars exacted a bit of revenge on the Saanich Braves Friday night, escaping with a 2-1 shootout win in a rematch of the VIJHL’s top two teams at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.
On Thursday night, the Braves marched into Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt and handed the Cougars a 3-1 loss, the Cougar’s first regulation loss in league play in almost a year.
Saanich defenceman Garrett Kemmler had another solid outing Friday against Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
On Friday night, it appeared that the Braves would make it two in a row, as a first period marker by Ty Jones at the 8:01 mark was the only goal to be scored for either team for nearly 59 minutes of the game.
Saanich’s Ty Jones, here breaking in to the Cougar zone in period two, would score the Braves only goal of the evening, midway through the first period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Braves were constantly frustrating the Cougar attack and executing a forecheck that, at times, kept the league’s leading team hemmed in their own end. The Braves also did a fantastic job on the penalty kill, denying the Cougars three powerplay opportunities.
The game was eerily similar to the Thursday night matchup, with the teams playing evenly through the first period, the Cougars dominating the second period in shots 15-5 and the teams once again playing evenly through the third.
Saanich’s Josh Gray looks for a shot on goal in the second period of the Braves 2-1 loss to Victoria Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Also similar was that both starting goalies, Evan Roch for the Cougars and Tanner McGaw for the Braves, once again showed why they are tops in the league, keeping their teams in the game with solid positional saves.
And finally, another eerie coincidence and one that the conspiracy theorists (i.e. Saanich Braves fans) will talk about for a few days, was that the Cougars were once again, just like Thursday night, awarded a power play on a seemingly soft call, with 1:30 remaining to play.
Victoria’s Graham Zagrodney (24) avoids the forecheck of Saanich’s Sam McMullen in second period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
And just like Thursday night, the Cougars would elect to keep Roch in the net, but this time, unlike Thursday night, the move would pay off, as the Cougar’s Ben Kinshella would bang home a rebound at the 18:55 mark to tie the game 1-1.
But for a bit of bad luck, the Braves could have sealed the deal about a minute-and-a-half earlier, as Jones broke in down the wing and fired a laser past Roch that caught nothing but post and bounced high into the air and out of danger.
Despite the efforts of Saanich’s Justin Polischuk, the Cougar’s Evan Roch was able to see most shots Friday, stopping 22 of 23 and all 4 in the shoot-out to get the win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Braves also had ample opportunity on the powerplay to get an insurance goal, including two first period and two third period opportunities, but it was not to be, and the only powerplay goal of the evening, the shot by Kinshella, would send the game to OT.
The Cougars would dominate the OT, outshooting the Braves 5-0, but could not score and the game would move to a shoot-out.
Victoria’s Brody Coulter would get the lone assist on Ben Kinshella’s game-tying goal late in the third period Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
In the shoot-out, the Braves Justin Polischuk was denied by a nice glove save from Roch, while Garrett Kemmler shot high. Meanwhile, Tanner McGaw was equal to the task, stopping the first three Cougar attempts from Kinshella, Nathan Chen-Mack and Brody Coulter.
That left it up to Jones to end it, but after deking Roch to his backhand and then pulling to his forehand where he faced and open corner, the puck flipped on end and Jones put it over the crossbar, keeping the shoot-out going to the next round.
Saanich’s Ty Jones had the game on his stick and the whole upper net to shoot at over Victoria goaltender Evan Roch, but the puck flipped on end at the last second and his shootout attempt went over the crossbar (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
For the fourth round, the Cougars sent out Garrett Brandsma, who skated in and blasted a slapshot over the right shoulder of McGaw for a goal. Josh Gray then went for the Braves and when his deke was denied by Roch, the Cougars came charging off their bench to celebrate the 2-1 win.
The Cougars Garrett Brandsma would be the hero, scoring the shootout winner in Victoria’s 2-1 win over Saanich on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
With the win, the Cougars move to a record of 23-1-1 and sit with 47 points in first place, ahead of Saanich, who drops to 17-4-1 with 35 points. Both teams are now off until Wednesday of next week when the Cougars travel to Westshore on Wednesday while the Braves travel to Peninsula on Thursday.