March 20, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars shoot for their second consecutive VIJHL title when playoff action resumes on Saturday.
Standing in their way are the Comox Valley Glacier Kings who knocked off the heavily favoured Nanaimo Buccaneers in the North Island Division Semi-Finals.
This year’s VIJHL Championship Series may lack some intensity because both teams have punched their ticket to the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
However, many pundits around the Junior B circuit think otherwise.
The Cougars look to hoist the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy for a fifth time while Comox Valley tries to end a 17-year long drought.
While the series has not officially started, Victoria was thrown a knee-buckling curveball.
Game 1, traditionally hosted by the team who is seeded higher, will begin in Courtenay. Due to a scheduling conflict with the Victoria Curling Classic, the Cougars have been forced to start the best-of-seven series away from the friendly confines of the Archie Browning Sports Centre.
Instead of playing Games 1, 3, 5, and 7 on home ice; Victoria will now host Games 2, 3, 5, and 7.
This may prove advantageous for the Glacier Kings who will need to get off on the right foot.
Building and maintaining momentum are keys to winning the series – not only for Comox Valley but for the Cougars as well.
Both teams enter Game 1 on three game win streaks.
Mark Van Helvoirt and his troops advanced to the Championship Series after eliminating both the Peninsula Panthers and Saanich Braves in five games.
Victoria has seven players who are in the top ten in playoff scoring.
Dane Feeney leads the way with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in ten games.
Line mate Sam Rice is second in playoff scoring with six goals and 16 assists, Brody Coulter is third with 12 goals and nine assists, Mark Walton is fourth with eight goals and 11 assists, Ben Kinshella and Graham Zagrodney are each tied for seventh with five goals and eight assists and three goals and ten assists respectively. Nathan Chen-Mack is in eighth spot with five goals and seven assists.
After recording a league-high 28 wins during the regular season, Evan Roch enters the Championship Series with a 7-2 record, a 2.58 goals against average, and a .897 save percentage.
Michael Herringer, a Victoria Royals prospect, gives the Cougars the best 1-2 punch in the VIJHL. Victoria allowed a league-low 96 goals in the regular season.
The Cougars, who posted a 45-1-2 record, was the top team in the VIJHL during the 2012-13 campaign.
After sweeping the Oceanside Generals in Round 1, Comox Valley pulled off a stunning six-game upset over the Buccaneers to get to this point.
Michael Hails has been a godsend since his arrival to Vancouver Island from the KIJHL. Acquired in late October, the former Creston Valley Thunder Cats goalie has stepped up his game. In the postseason, Hails has an 8-2 record, a 2.20 G.A.A., and a .911 S.P.
The Coldstream, B.C. native was especially good against Nanaimo, turning aside 136-of-152 shots. Backup Bryce Di Rocco has yet to play.
Offense has not been a problem for the 22-22-3 Glacier Kings these playoffs.
Comox Valley, who scored on average 3.9 goals per game during the regular season, has scored a whopping 43 postseason goals.
Leading the way is 17-year-old Rylan Ball. The Powell River, B.C. native has ten goals and four assists, good for sixth place in playoff scoring.
Four other Glacier Kings players have recorded double digits. Jack Kennelly has six goals and seven assists for 13 points, ex-Braves forward Andrew White has one goal and 11 assists for 12 points, Michael Pond has five goals and five assists for ten points, and Brandon Halls has four goals and six assists for also ten points.
The Cougars have been tough on Comox Valley, taking three of four head-to-head matchups.
On Sep. 22, Wade Bartlett’s goal in the fifth round of a shootout lifted the Glacier Kings to a 4-3 win over Victoria. Shots on goal favoured the Cougars 28-22. Victoria went 3-for-8 on the power play while Comox Valley went 1-for-3. The Cougars led 1-0 after one period but trailed 3-1 after two.
On Nov. 18, Coulter recorded two goals and two assists to lead Victoria past the Glacier Kings 9-3. Shots on goal favoured the Cougars 41-29. Victoria went 5-for-9 on the power play while Comox Valley went 1-for-4. The Cougars led 3-1 after one period and 7-2 after two.
On Jan. 11, Coulter again recorded two goals and two assists, this time in a 5-3 Victoria win over the Glacier Kings. Shots on goal favoured the Cougars 26-20. Victoria went 1-for-4 on the power play while Comox Valley went 0-for-2. The Cougars led 2-1 after one period and 4-2 after two.
And on Jan. 24, Coulter scored once and added three assists as Victoria cruised past the Glacier Kings 5-2. Shots on goal favoured the Cougars 43-28. Victoria went 4-for-9 on the power play while Comox Valley went 0-for-6. The Cougars led 3-2 after one period and 4-2 after two.
The Cyclone Taylor Cup, to be held Apr. 11-14 at the Comox Valley Sports Centre, comprises of the host team and the champions from the KIJHL, PJHL, and VIJHL.
Because the Glacier Kings won the North Island Division and had already qualified as being the host team, Victoria receives an automatic bye.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Victoria – Eliminated Peninsula Panthers, 4-1. Eliminated Saanich Braves, 4-1. Comox Valley – Eliminated Oceanside Generals, 4-0. Eliminated Nanaimo Buccaneers, 4-2
TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Brody Coulter, 12 goals; Dane Feeney, 17 assists; Dane Feeney, 26 points; Robert Zadra, 42 penalty minutes. Comox Valley – Rylan Ball, 10 goals; Andrew White, 11 assists; Rylan Ball, 14 points; Michael Pond, Calvin Hadley, 25 penalty minutes
GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Evan Roch (2.58 goals against average, .897 save percentage); Michael Herringer (0.69 goals against average, .971 save percentage). Comox Valley – Michael Hails (2.20 goals against average, .911 save percentage); Bryce Di Rocco (no appearances)
POWER PLAY: Victoria – 29/73, 39.7 percent. Comox Valley – 15/57, 26.3 percent
PENALTY KILL: Victoria – 52/58, 89.7 percent. Comox Valley – 45/51, 88.2 percent
PAST RESULTS/FUTURE MEETINGS:
Game 2. March 26, 2013. Comox Valley Glacier Kings @ Victoria Cougars
Game 3. March 28, 2013. Comox Valley Glacier Kings @ Victoria Cougars
Game 4. March 30, 2013. Victoria Cougars @ Comox Valley Glacier Kings
Game 5 (if necessary). March 31, 2013. Comox Valley Glacier Kings @ Victoria Cougars
Game 6 (if necessary). April 2, 2013. Victoria Cougars @ Comox Valley Glacier Kings
Game 7 (if necessary). April 3, 2013. Comox Valley Glacier Kings @ Victoria Cougars
HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 6-0. Away, 2-2. Comox Valley – Home, 4-1. Away, 4-1
STREAKS: Victoria, WON 3. Comox Valley, WON 3