By Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 28, 2012, Richmond, BC – The Saanich Braves Midget AA hockey club stayed undefeated at the Richmond International Christmas Tournament, winning a pair of games Friday, 2-1 over the Prince George Cougars and 3-1 over the Nanaimo Clippers. The Braves are now 3-0 and sit first in their pool with one round robin game remaining.
In Friday morning’s game against Prince George, the Braves were caught on their heels in the first half of the opening period and were outplayed badly, but some big saves by eventual game MVP Ty Sweeney limited the Cougars to just a power play goal for an early 1-0 lead.
The Braves would settle their game down and counter with a power play marker of their own with 1:40 remaining in the period when Andrew Bushby would pounce on a loose puck and put it past the Cougar netminder, sending the teams into the break tied at 1-1.
In the second, the Braves would take over defensively, limiting the Cougars to just 4 shots on net, but could not find a way to bury any of their 11 shots and the 1-1 tie carried into the third.
In an evenly matched period, the tension mounted until with 7:44 remaining, Saanich’s Braedan Pearce was sent in all alone on a nice feed from Adam Page. Pearce deked hard and then outwaited the Price George goalie before putting the eventual game winner into the net.
In the last few minutes, the Braves took a penalty to make things interesting, but Sweeney, who finished with 28 saves on 29 shots, came up big again with a couple of key saves down the stretch to preserve the 2-1 win.
In the Saturday evening game against Nanaimo, the Clippers had upset on their minds and came out hard and fast against the Braves, but it was the Braves who scored first as Pearce continued with the hot hand, taking a feed in the slot from Hayle Kincross and burying one top corner to give Saanich the 1-0 lead.
The Clippers would counter on the powerplay with just six seconds remaining in the period to take the teams into the break tied at 1-1.
In the second, the Braves would begin to take over the game, outshooting the Clippers 15-7 and scoring again, as Pearce contributed another, banking a shot in off the goalie from a sharp angle to put Saanich back out in front with 14:41 to play.
In yet another tension filled period, penalties began to mount and the game took on a bit of a chippy nature, as the Clippers were called for 30 minutes in penalties, including a game misconduct, at one point giving the Braves a pair of 5 on 3 advantages, but the Braves could not capitalize and the score remained 2-1 at the break.
The third period was all Saanich as they outshot Nanaimo 12-1 and got a much needed insurance marker from Grayden Hohl on the powerplay with 9:34 remaining to put Saanich up 3-1. With his insurance goal Hohl was given the Game MVP award for Saanich. Jason Stewart stopped 13 of 14 shots for the win in net.
The Braves will now close out the round robin portion of the tournament with a game Saturday at 3:00 pm against the California Wave U16 squad.
Other Island teams in the tournament have not been faring as well. The North Island Silvertips sit at 1-2 in Major Midget Play, while the Nanaimo Clippers A team has a win and two losses thus far in Tier 1 competiton and the Clippers B squad has a loss and a tie in Tier 2, including their loss today to Saanich. The Saanich Braves Midget B team (Tier 2) and the Comox Valley Chiefs (Tier 1) are both 0-3, while the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies AA team has a win and two losses in Tier 2 play. Juan de Fuca’s B team are 0-3 in Tier 3 play.