Story by Peter Kung – Photos by Jim Hockley (ISN)

March 29, 2013, Esquimalt, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars are one win away from capturing their fifth VIJHL title in franchise history.

Michael Herringer stopped 21 shots and Nathan Chen-Mack recorded a career high four assists as Victoria cruised to a 5-0 win over the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Thursday night.

Scoring for the Cougars, who led 2-0 after one period and 3-0 after two, were Kelyn Opel (2), Graham Zagrodney, Ben Kinshella, and Wade Johnson.

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Roofing it. Second star of the night Kelyn Stolz, a series thorn in the side of the Kings scores a picture perfect goal over the sholder of Bryce DeRocco – Photo by Jim Hockley (ISN)

Comox Valley did a good job containing Victoria’s top line of Brody Coulter, Dane Feeney, and Sam Rice. Certainly not for a lack of effort, the dynamic trio would manage only one point between the three of them.

Mark Van Helvoirt and his troops opened the scoring at 7:37 but not before killing off two early power plays against the third best power play unit in both the regular season and playoffs.

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Photo by Jim Hockley (ISN)

Mark Walton, who was wearing a full cage to protect the stitches he received last game, took his first of four penalties of the night at the 1:05 mark. Then a hit-to-the-head penalty by Coulter at 3:11 put the Cougars behind the eight ball for the second time in a row. In addition to his penalty, Coulter received an automatic ten-minute misconduct. Before Victoria could get on track, the Glacier Kings had burst out to a 4-0 shots on goal advantage.

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Photo by Jim Hockley (ISN)

Comox Valley took their first penalty of the game when Cody Eliason was sent off the ice at 6:12 for cross-checking Chen-Mack. Coincidental minors to Sasha Hahn and Kinshella less than a minute later would still leave the Glacier Kings a man down.  After voicing his displeasure, Hahn was slapped with an additional penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct which resulted in a two man advantage for the Cougars for one minute and six seconds.

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Photo by Jim Hockley (ISN)

Thirty seconds later, Zagrodney, who was filling in for Coulter at the point, took a cross-ice pass from Rice and wired the puck behind Bryce Di Rocco from the top of the left hand face-off circle. The score remained that way until Opel’s goal at 16:47.

After taking a pass from Chen-Mack, Opel skated up the right wing and sent a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Di Rocco. Eliason, who racked up 159 penalty minutes during the regular season, was in the sin bin on both Victoria’s first two goals.

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Kings Andrew White receives denial of movement from the Cats – Photo by Jim Hockley (ISN)

The Cougars went ahead 3-0 when Opel was sent in all alone on a breakaway. Juking and jiving, Opel backhanded the puck over Di Rocco at 15:22 of the second period for his seventh goal of the playoffs.

Late in the period, Opel had his attempt at a natural hat trick broken up by Patrick Croome at the last possible second.  An odd man rush led to Kinshella scoring at 7:44 of the third period. Then with just over four minutes remaining in regulation, Johnson slid the puck behind Di Rocco to close out the scoring.

Di Rocco, filling in for Michael Hails who was not dressed for Thursday’s game, faced 16 shots in the first period, 21 in the second, and 13 more in the third for a game total of 50 shots.

Victoria went 2-for-9 on the power play; meanwhile the Glacier Kings went 0-for-6.

Frustrations began to mount for Comox Valley who has been outscored 20-6 through three games. Tyson Rennie wanted to fight Jamie Severs while Jack Kennelly uncharacteristically took back-to-back roughing penalties.

Herringer again proved why he was selected in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft by the Victoria Royals. Not only did the 17-year-old rookie goalie stand on his head, he improved to 2-0, lowered his goals against average to 0.41, and raised his save percentage to .982.

Game 4 is Saturday, March 30. Game time at the Comox Valley Sports Centre, located at 3100 Vanier Drive, is 7:30 p.m.


1st star, Nathan Chen-Mack (Goals: 0, Assists: 4)

2nd star, Kelyn Opel (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)

3rd star, Michael Herringer (Saves: 21, Save Percentage: 1.000)