Braves Fall to Cougars 6-1

Saanich Braves full color logo

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

January 24, 2014, Saanich, BC (ISN) – Mark Walton and Michael Fretz had a goal and a pair of assists each to lead the Victoria Cougars to a 6-1 win over the Saanich Braves in VIJHL action Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

The game marked the first between the two teams since a January 10th trade that saw the Braves send Captain Sam McMullen and defenseman Garett Kemmler to the Cougars in exchange for forwards Jake Daughtry and Nyshan Basra. In a nod to that trade, all four players were in the starting line-ups for their respective squads.

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Former Cougars Jake Daughtry (16) and Nyshan Basra (background) lead the charge for the Braves during their game with the Cougars Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Cougars would dominate the opening period, outshooting the Braves 24-2 and putting a pair of goals past Braves starter Jordan Werezak. Ryan Carson would open the scoring at the 2:13 mark and Graham Zagrodney would score the second on the powerplay at the 14:42 mark and the Cougars took that 2-0 lead into the intermission.

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It was definitely a strange sight at the beginning of the game Friday, seeing Garett Kemmler (left) and Sam McMullen (right) in a Cougars uniform at Pearkes Arena (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In the second, the Cougars looked to continue where they left off and would score early when Blake Roney notched his 26th of the season just 1:42 in. The Cougars would jump into a 4-0 lead less than three minutes later when Walton would score a powerplay marker at the 4:15 mark of the period.

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With Liam Sproule and Jordan Groenhyde out of the lineup Friday, defenseman Chris Carpentier provided key defensive leadership for the Braves on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Following that goal, Saanich goalie Werezak would flip the puck out of the net and down the ice in an innocent manner, but hard enough that referee Jordy Davis felt it warranted a 10 minute misconduct. While Werezak did not have to serve the penalty, Braves Head Coach Brad Cook chose to pull Werezak – who had just returned from a four game suspension – in favour of backup Jason Stewart.

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Victoria’s Jordan Davie tries to navigate around the check of Braves defenceman Brendan DeJong (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The 18-year old Stewart, who signed with the Braves earlier Friday as a replacement for the departed Matt Rud, last played a game in anger during the Braves training camp in August, when he shared the duties in net during a pre-season win over Kerry Park.

He was immediately thrown into the fire in this game, coming in to face the strong Cougars powerplay and was rudely greeted with a first shot howitzer by Michael Fretz just 20 seconds later, putting the Cougars up 5-0.

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Victoria’s Michael Fretz would have a goal and two assists in the 6-1 win over the Braves (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Stewart would settle down after that and while Wade Johnson would snipe another powerplay marker past him at the 15:40 mark of the period, he would keep the Cougars off the board the rest of the way, including stopping all 14 Cougar shots in the third period, to finish with 22 saves on 24 shots for the night.

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Newly signed goaltender Jason Stewart would make a relief appearance for the Braves Friday, stopping 22 of 24 shots in the second and third periods (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Following the second period goal by Johnson, the Braves seemed to pick their game up a notch and played the Cougars evenly, especially in period three when they would generate nine shots on net – this after managing just five over the first two periods.

The Braves would be rewarded for their elevated play with a late goal from call-up Dale McCabe, who would spoil the shut-out bid of Cougar goaltender Connor Beauchamp with just 46 seconds remaining, making the final 6-1.

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Braves forward Dayne Ellison carries the puck out of his zone ahead of the chck from the Cougar’s Wade Johnson (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Asked how it felt to be back in Pearkes Arena but on the “wrong” bench, former Brave McMullen – who notched three assists in the game – said, “It was definitely a weird feeling at the start of the game, but once we started playing, it was just hockey and our focus switched to the game itself.”

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Former Brave Sam McMullen (27) would have three assists in his first game against his former teammates, helping the Cougars to a 6-1 win over the Braves (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Cougars outshot the Braves 52-14 on the night and their powerplay was a deadly 4 out of 5. The Braves were 0 for 5 on the powerplay. Hunter Atchison and Chris Carpentier earned assists on the Braves goal. Other Cougar assists went to Robert Zadra (with a pair), Jordan Davie, Patrick Webb and Zagrodney.

The Braves are in action again next Thursday January 30th when they travel to Nanaimo to face the Buccaneers. Game time is 7:15 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. The Bucs then make the return trip to Pearkes Arena on Friday the 31st. Puck drop is the usual 6:30 for that one.

Game Notes:  The Braves received some good news prior to the game, learning that they have been awarded two additional points in the standings, thanks to a previous game against the Westshore Wolves in which the Wolves used an inelligible player. As such, the Wolves forfeit that game and the 2 points to the Braves.  The Braves once again loaded up on affiliate players, with four in the line-up tonight against the Cougars.  

Christian J. Stewart
Christian is a professional photographer and media professional based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently working as the Assistant General Manager for Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club, a Senior Contributing Editor and photographer at Independent Sports News (ISN) and operating his own freelance photography and media/pr company.