by Peter Kung
January 17, 2014, Esquimalt (ISN) – The uber-talented defenseman had three assists as the league-leading Victoria Cougars blanked Oceanside 5-0 in one of two Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League games played Thursday.
Scoring for Victoria, who led 1-0 after one period and 3-0 after two, was Mark Walton, Garett Kemmler, Wade Johnson, Sam McMullen, and Nicholas Bower.
Nathan Hargrave stopped all 17 shots which included making a great save on a breakaway attempt by Nate Fitzpatrick with just over six minutes remaining in regulation.
It was the second shutout in a row for the Cougars. Connor Beauchamp recorded his league-leading seventh goose egg last Sunday in a 3-0 win over the Nanaimo Buccaneers.
While Victoria (29-8-1-1) moved ten points ahead of the Campbell River Storm for first place overall in the VIJHL standings, the Generals (6-30-1-1) remained ten points behind the Saanich Braves for the final playoff spot.
Both Saanich and Campbell River, who has two games in hand on the Cougars, were idle Thursday.
Seeking a spark on offense, Oceanside brought in 18-year-old Keegan Hull from the Wichita Jr. Thunder of the Western States Hockey League. Hull, who played alongside Devin Warfield and Fitzpatrick, racked up eight goals and 21 assists in 17 games while with Wichita.
But Victoria’s stifling defense bottled up Hull and everyone else wearing a red and white jersey.
Walton opened the scoring at 3:16 after banging home a Zagrodney rebound past goaltender Liam Giroux.
There was a scary moment with just under two minutes remaining in the period when David Marshall went crashing into the end boards following a shorthanded scoring attempt.
Marshall did not return and will be re-evaluated on Friday.
It looked as though McMullen would double the lead 52 seconds into the middle frame but the goal got waived off by referee Riley Friesen because the net was knocked off its moorings.
Penalties to Jordan Marciniak and Walton midway through the period put the Generals on a two-man advantage for 62 seconds. But the league’s No. 1 ranked penalty kill limited Oceanside to only one shot on goal.
That missed opportunity cost the Generals dearly. Because two seconds after Walton stepped out of the penalty box, Kemmler took a pass from McMullen during an odd-man rush and beat Giroux with a low wrist shot at 11:22.
A holding penalty to Liam Peel put the Cougars on their first man advantage two-and-a-half minutes later. And with 20 seconds remaining in the penalty, Johnson ripped a shot from the right faceoff circle at 15:38 to give Victoria a three goal advantage.
The home side took a 4-0 lead at 4:11 of the third period on another power play tally as McMullen teamed up with Johnson and Zagrodney for his first goal as a Cougar.
For Zagrodney, that was his third assist of the game and his ninth point in three games versus Oceanside this season.
Two minutes after Fitzpatrick failed on his breakaway attempt, Michael Fretz sent Bower in all alone and with a little juking and jiving, beat Giroux with a backhander.
And with ten seconds remaining in the game, Generals head coach Bill Bestwick pulled Giroux for an extra attacker but to no avail.
Hargrave, who boasts a 10-2-1-0 record, leads all VIJHL netminders with a 1.55 goals against average and a stellar .929 save percentage.
Victoria, who fired 37 shots at Giroux, went 2-for-3 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
In Nanaimo, Ali Gotmy scored twice and Michael Hails made 24 saves to lead the Comox Valley Glacier Kings to a 2-1 win over the hometown Buccaneers.
Next game for the Cougars is Sunday, January 19 against the Kerry Park Islanders. Game time at the Kerry Park Recreation Centre, located at 1035 Shawnigan Mill Bay Road, is 3:00 p.m.
1st star, Wade Johnson (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
2nd star, Graham Zagrodney (Goals: 0, Assists: 3)
3rd star, Jordan Marciniak (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)