Cougars/Islanders: First-round preview

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Victoria Cougars_Logo

by Peter Kung

February 17, 2014, Victoria (ISN) – Four-and-a-half months and 216 regular season games later, the 2014 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs are finally upon us.

Eight teams, which include the No. 1 seed Victoria Cougars, will now embark down the long and gruelling road towards the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy.

As soon as the first-round is complete and the four remaining teams are known, they will be re-seeded based on the overall standings.

That trend will continue through to the Championship Series.

As mentioned, Victoria (35-10-1-2) enters the postseason as the No. 1 seed and will play the No. 7 ranked Kerry Park Islanders (17-25-1-5) in a best-of-seven series beginning Thursday.

Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.

It has been a tale of two halves for the Cougars.  During the first half of the season, Victoria went an impressive 19-3-1-1.  The Cougars then went 16-7-0-1 in the second half which included posting a 1-2-0-1 record during their final four games of the regular season.

Granted, those four games did not mean anything as Victoria had already wrapped up the regular season title for the fourth year in a row.

Defense and goaltending have been the driving force behind the Cougars success this season.

Surprisingly yet not surprisingly, Victoria allowed four fewer goals from the previous year despite posting ten fewer wins and nine more losses.  This season, the Cougars have outshot their opponents by a margin of 1,912 to 1,067.  Victoria has also allowed 20 shots or less on 20 separate occasions.

Give credit to the defense.

Connor Beauchamp had some pretty big shoes to fill in replacing Evan Roch in between the pipes.  The six-foot-one, 195-pound Nanton, Alberta native responded in a big way by leading the VIJHL in wins (23), goals against average (1.77), and shutouts (9).  Beauchamp is currently the only junior goaltender playing in British Columbia who has a G.A.A. of less than 2.00.

With four lines capable of scoring, the Cougars do not have to rely on one or two players to get the offense going.  Ten players posted ten goals or more for Victoria which included 31 from Blake Roney alone.

Leading the way offensively for the Cougars was defenseman Graham Zagrodney who finished sixth in league scoring with eight goals and 56 assists for 64 points.

And with trade deadline pickups Sam McMullen and reigning defenseman of the year Garett Kemmler coming over from the Saanich Braves in January, Victoria became more than solid at both ends of the ice.

Kerry Park is hoping that forward Francis Lapierre-Slicer and goaltender Leighton Williams can ignite a first-round upset.

Lapierre-Slicer became the Islanders leading scorer after Alex Milligan was traded away to the Peninsula Panthers in January.  Williams, one of five 17-year-olds on the roster, is 4-4-0-0 in his last eight games.

Kerry Park scored 66 fewer goals and allowed 119 more goals than the Cougars.

Mark Van Helvoirt and his brigade got the better of Dale Purinton has his posse this season.  Victoria won all eight meetings which included outscoring the Islanders 44-7 and shutting them out three times.

Kerry Park is a team to watch for in the future.  But having gone 3-6-0-1 in their last ten games, the Islanders will need to make some adjustments or face an early exit.

Other first-round matchups include:

(2)   Comox Valley Glacier Kings (31-14-1-2) vs. (8) Saanich Braves (11-34-1-2)

(3)   Peninsula Panthers (30-13-2-3) vs. (6) Westshore Wolves (21-19-3-5)

(4)   Campbell River Storm (30-14-2-2) vs. (5) Nanaimo Buccaneers (25-19-2-2)

The Oceanside Generals were eliminated from playoff contention after finishing last in the league.

FINAL STANDINGS:  Victoria – 1st place, 73 points, South Island Division.  Kerry Park – 4th place, 40 points, South Island Division

OFFENSE:  Victoria – 1st place, 4.69 goals for per game.  Kerry Park – 7th place, 3.31 goals for per game

DEFENSE:  Victoria – 1st place, 1.92 goals against per game.  Kerry Park – 6th place, 4.40 goals against per game

TEAM LEADERS:  Victoria – Blake Roney, 31 goals; Graham Zagrodney, 56 assists; Graham Zagrodney, 64 points; Robert Zadra, 65 penalty minutes.  Kerry Park – Francis Lapierre-Slicer, 25 goals; Francis Lapierre-Slicer, 17 assists; Francis Lapierre-Slicer, 42 points; David Bittner, 104 penalty minutes

GOALTENDERS:  Victoria – Connor Beauchamp (1.77 goals against average, .917 save percentage); Nathan Hargrave (2.07 goals against average, .911 save percentage).  Kerry Park – Leighton Williams (4.00 goals against average, .895 save percentage); Michael Herringer (4.74 goals against average, .856 save percentage)

POWER PLAY:  Victoria – 1st place, 91-for-310, 29.35 percent.  Kerry Park – 5th place, 41-for-241, 17.01 percent

PENALTY KILL:  Victoria – 1st place, 209-for-231, 90.48 percent.  Kerry Park – 9th place, 204-for-275, 74.18 percent

SEASON SERIES:  Victoria won series, 8-0-0-0

PAST RESULTS:

  • September 22, 2013.  Victoria Cougars 5 @ Kerry Park Islanders 1
  • October 13, 2013.  Victoria Cougars 7 @ Kerry Park Islanders 0
  • October 24, 2013.  Kerry Park Islanders 1 @ Victoria Cougars 7
  • November 14, 2013.  Kerry Park Islanders 1 @ Victoria Cougars 4
  • November 28, 2013.  Kerry Park Islanders 3 @ Victoria Cougars 5
  • December 8, 2013.  Victoria Cougars 2 @ Kerry Park Islanders 0
  • January 9, 2014.  Kerry Park Islanders 1 @ Victoria Cougars 7
  • January 19, 2014.  Victoria Cougars 7 @ Kerry Park Islanders 0

HOME/AWAY RECORDS:  Victoria – Home, 21-2-0-1.  Kerry Park – Away, 7-15-0-2

STREAKS:  Victoria, 0-1-0-0.  Kerry Park, 1-0-0-0

LAST TEN:  Victoria, 7-2-0-1.  Kerry Park, 3-6-0-1

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