Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
January 3, 2013, Saanich, BC (ISN) – The Saanich Braves ended a four game losing streak by defeating the Kerry Park Islanders 4-3 in VIJHL action Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.
The Braves, who had dropped three straight to the Peninsula Panthers during the holiday season, including a 9-1 drubbing on New Years Day, a 6-2 loss on December 27th, and a 3-2 loss on December 20th, finally found a way to hold on to a lead, going up 4-1 at one point early in the second period and then hanging on for the win.
Saanich’s Sasha Hahn carries the puck out of his end during first period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Islanders would actually open the scoring in this game, with Francis Lapierre-Slicer putting one past Braves starter Jordan Werezak at the 6:18 mark of the first. The Braves would respond before period end however with Wade Bartlett notching a powerplay goal at the 14:13 mark and then Sam McMullen scoring a beauty at the 18:34 mark.
Saanich’s Jordan Werezak would fend off 25 of 28 shots to get the win Friday against Kerry Park (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Braves would add to that lead early in the second as James Sneddon would sneak one past a surprised Leighton Williams at the 1:05 mark of the second. A powerplay marker by Garett Kemmler just under two minutes later would put the Braves up 4-1 and they looked well on their way to the win.
Kerry Park’s Eric Mansueti drives to the net during Friday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
However, holding leads has been something the young Braves have struggled with all season and a powerplay marker by Eric Mansueti at the 15:42 mark would put the Islanders down just a pair heading into the third.
Kerry Park’s Cody Short is watched carefully by Saanich’s Scott Henderson (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Another powerplay marker by the Islanders at the 2:14 mark of the third period, this time by Tylor Branzsen, brought the Islanders within one, and had many of the Braves faithful wondering if they were going to witness yet another collapse.
Saanich’s Sam McMullen would have a goal and 2 assists to earn first star honours Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
It was not to be however and despite a gallant effort by the Islanders, especially on a couple of close chances with their goalie pulled late, Werezak and the Braves held them off and escaped with the win.
With the win, the Braves improve their record to 11-22-1-1, while the Islanders fall to 13-18-1-3. Importantly the Braves move to within 6 points of Kerry Park for 4th place in the South and it keeps them well ahead of Oceanside, who sit last overall in the North.
Kerry Park goaltender Leighton Williams denies James Sneddon a prime scoring chance during the second period Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
This is important as the last place team in the VIJHL overall drops out of the playoffs, while (assuming this is Oceanside) the last place team in the South, currently the Braves, would move to the North to face the #1 seed in that division, while the 4th place team stays in th South and faces (likely) the Cougars in the first round.
Saanich’s Jack Rachwalkski moves the puck into the Kerry Park Zone during the second period Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Next up for Saanich is a road game against the Westshore Wolves on Sunday. Puck drop is 7:00 pm at Bear Mountain Arena.