Close But No Cigar – Braves Drop 4-3 Decision to Buc’s

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

January 30, 2014, Nanaimo, BC (ISN) – David Osborne’s goal at the 11:22 mark of the third period was the game winner as the Nanaimo Buccaneers skated to a 4-3 win over the Saanich Braves in VIJHL action Thursday night in Nanaimo.

The win was the Buccaneers second in the last three games but just their third in a tough January. It did not come easy however, as the Buccaneers at one point held a 3-0 lead only to see the scrappy Braves tie it up early in the third, before Osborne’s heroics saved the day.

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Saanich’s Dane Ellison puts up a screen in front of Buc’s goaltender Jackson Jane during their game Thursday evening in Nanaimo (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

It was Osborne who also got things going for the Buc’s in the first period as well, sniping a power play goal over the glove of Saanich starter Jason Stewart at the 8:29 mark of the first to put Nanaimo up 1-0.

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Saanich’s Nyshan Basra carries the puck out of his end in first period action Thrsday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

They would add to that lead before the period was out, when Daniel Foglietta was left all alone in front, where he would take a feed from Will McNamara and slip a low shot past the far pad of Stewart for the 2-0 lead.

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Nanaimo’s leading scorer Garrett Dunlop skates away from the check of Saanich’s Mackenzie Valentine (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In the second, Nanaimo would strike early as McNamara deftly swatted a pass out of mid-air on a two on one break, surprising Stewart and putting Nanaimo up 3-0. That chance would be one of the few the Buccaneers got in a 5-shot second period and before the period was out, the Braves would be rewarded for their work when Evan Horvath took a nice pass from call-up Liam Kinshella and snapped a shot through Nanaimo starter Jackson Jane to get the Braves on the board with just 1:04 remaining in the frame.

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Saanich Captain Liam Sproule would have a goal and would issue a number of big hits against Nanaimo Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

That goal seemed to motivate the Braves and in the third, Captain Liam Sproule would draw them within one with a powerplay marker from the point just 2:45 into the period. Horvath would then notch his second of the game at the 6:31 mark, sliding into the slot off the right wing and, while falling to the ice, backhanding a pretty shot over Jane to notch the game at 3-3.

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Evan Horvath would provide the offensive spark for the Braves Thursday, notching a pair of goals against the Buccaneers (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Just two minutes later, the Buc’s would be presented with a glorious opportunity to go ahead, as the Braves took a pair of penalties that put Nanaimo on an extended 5 on 3 powerplay. The Braves penalty killing unit, and goaltender Stewart, were up to the task however and kept the Bucs off the board during the man advantage.

That would not deter the Buccaneers however and at the 11:22 mark, after a mad scramble in front of the Saanich net and at least two or three whacks at the loose puck, Osborne was finally able to pound one in past the outstretched pad of Stewart to put the Bucs into the 4-3 lead.

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Nanaimo’s Mikko Keski-Pukkila battles on the face-off with Saanich’s Evan Horvath (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

With Saanich pressuring and the goaltender pulled late in the game, the Braves had a couple of opportunities denied and shortly after a crazy goalmouth scramble, a boarding penalty to Nanaimo’s Thor Rosback with 10 seconds remaining started a small melee that saw a number of players from both teams tussling with each other and ultimately enjoying the final seconds of the game from the change rooms.

The Braves had one last opportunity in the final 10 seconds, but could not score and the Buccaneers escaped with the 4-3 win.

For the Braves, while the game marked their best performance goal deficit wise in a month, it was their 8th in a row and it spoiled the first official VIJHL start for 18-year old Saanich goaltender Stewart, who joined the Braves last Friday. Head Coach Brad Cook was quick to point out however that, in addition to the play of Horvath (with a pair of goals) Stewart’s play was one of the positives on the evening. “For a kid who has been off the ice for most of the season, he came in tonight and did what he was supposed to do, and stopped what he was supposed to stop. He stayed sharp and focused, even when he did not see a lot of action, and at the end of the day he gave us the chance to win. We just did not take advantage of it.”

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Saanich goaltender Jason Stewart made his first official VIJHL start Thursday against Nanaimo and played well despite the loss (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

As to the rest of the team’s play, while there were some positives, Cook did not pull any punches on evaluating the effort against the Bucs. “We lost because we were soft, period. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Our start was below average, especially after a week off. Guys should be coming out just itching to play. Our second period start was even worse. The boys came around after that and our intensity was there, and I was proud of the guys, but we just don’t have enough consistency and guys really sacrificing and taking the body and blocking shots. That was evident in their game winner, when we had four guys come in blowing snow and waving sticks and after three or four whacks, their guy scores. That can’t happen. That guy needs to get destroyed and cleared out of there.”

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Saanich’s Sasha Hahn skates away from Nanaimo’s Lucas Franssen during third period action Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

“We need to start doing things the hard way,” added Cook. “We tried doing things the easy way and it bit us in the butt. We need to find a way to win those games. They weren’t ready to play, we pressed the play for a good part of the game and we just didn’t take advantage of it in the end. We need better effort from more than just guys like Liam Sproule and Jordan Groenhyde, who were blocking shots and hitting everything that moved out there tonight. More guys need to follow suit and stop being just passengers. We don’t have the type of team to be able to afford passengers. Everyone needs full buy in every night and if we get that, we have shown we can compete with any team in this league. We just have to go regroup now and come out again tomorrow night against these guys.”

The official shots for the game were 23-22 for the Bucs, although a number of shots/saves on both sides seemed to go unrecorded based on this reporter’s observation, so let’s call it 30-25 for Nanaimo. The Braves enjoyed nine road powerplay chances but were only able to convert on one of those. The Bucs were 1 for 4 with the man advantage.

Three stars were Osborne of Nanaimo (1st), Horvath of Saanich (2nd) and McNamara of Nanaimo (3rd).

Both teams are right back at it Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich. Puck drop is 6:30pm.

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.