Story by Peter Kung – Photos by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)

February 15, 2013, Esquimalt, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars are heading into the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs with momentum.

Sam Rice scored at 1:12 of overtime as Victoria defeated the Saanich Braves 3-2 in the regular season finale for both teams.

The Cougars (45-1-0-2), who won their 12th straight game, rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits.

Also hitting the score sheet for Victoria were Mark Walton and Ben Kinshella.

But had it not been for the spectacular play of Braves’ goaltender Tanner McGaw, the game would have been over a long time ago.  McGaw, was named the game’s third star, stopped 41 shots in the loss.

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Braves Shawn McBride and Cougars Ben Kinshella race down the ice for the puck – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)

Saanich (30-14-0-4) opened the scoring with a power play goal at 8:33 of the first period when Max Mois snapped the puck over the right shoulder of Evan Roch.

But the lead lasted for only two minutes and 34-seconds. On a power play of its own, Dane Feeney centered the puck to Walton who beat McGaw for his 31st goal of the season.

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Braves Shawn McBride gets tripped up trying to make contact with the puck – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)

Wade Johnson, who was recently named Kirby’s Source for Sports VIJHL Player of the Week, had two goals disallowed in the period – one time for using a high stick and the other time for using a skate to direct the puck in.

There was no scoring until the 7:36 mark of the third period when Braves’ forward Josh Gray teamed up with Ty Jones for the go ahead goal.

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Evan Roch does a good job of keeping the  puck out – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)

Again, the lead did not last long. 66 seconds later and with Jordan Groenheyde in the penalty box for slashing Johnson, Kinshella tied the game after banging home a Feeney centering pass. That set up Rice’s game winner.

From just inside the blue line, Rice wired a slap shot which was so hard that the puck hit the back bar and bounced out in a matter of a nanosecond.

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Cougars try to poke the puck into Tanner McGaw’s net while the Braves try to keep it out – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)

Referee Riley Friesen, who was standing on the back line, immediately signalled a goal.

The Cougars finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.

Roch won a league high 28th game following a 28 save performance.

Victoria’s defenseman Robert Zadra was ejected from the game 19 seconds in for checking from behind.

The Cougars will now face the Peninsula Panthers in a best-of-7 series beginning next Thursday.

In other action around the VIJHL, the Nanaimo Buccaneers eked out a 3-2 win over the Oceanside Generals while the Campbell River Storm outlasted the Kerry Park Islanders 7-5.

Next game for Victoria is Thursday, February 21 against the Peninsula Panthers. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Rd., is 7:00 p.m.


1st star, Sam Rice (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)

2nd star, Wade Johnson (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)

3rd star, Tanner McGaw (Saves: 41, Save Percentage: .931)