Cougars Draw First Blood in VIJHL Finals

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Story by Peter Kung, Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

March 20, 2014, Esquimalt, BC (ISN) – Michael Fretz had a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Victoria Cougars to an easy 7-1 win over the Peninsula Panthers in Game 1 of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League finals at Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt on Thursday evening.

The Cougars, who led 3-1 after one period and 5-1 after two, got a big boost to their lineup with the return of forward Jordan Davie and defenseman Patrick Webb. After missing significant time due to injuries, both players managed to hit the score sheet in their first game back.

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Victoria’s Wade Johnson (left) and Peninsula’s Cole Glover (rignt) chase down a loose puck (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

It seemed as though from the get-go that both Mark Van Helvoirt and Brian Passmore had the same game plan. Both teams effectively took away time and space from each other while hitting everything in sight.

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Victoria’s Michael Fretz (left) and Peninsula’s Sean Buchanan (right) battle for posession Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Victoria got the first scoring chance of the game when Blake Roney redirected a Robert Zadra point shot just wide of the net. Then less than a minute later, it was the Panthers turn when Alex Milligan had his shot from the slot stopped.

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Peninsula’s Grayson Vickers (left) moves the puck out of his zone under pressure from the Cougar’s Nicholas Lyons (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

After Milligan took a two-minute minor for slashing in the offensive zone a couple of plays later, Webb opened the scoring from Ryan Carson and Garett Kemmler at 11:02 – 14 seconds after the penalty.

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Peninsula’s Connor Logan carries the puck into the Victoria end in Game 1 action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The lead lasted for only two minutes and 32-seconds when Milligan beat Connor Beauchamp with a textbook-quality deke. Jackson Skerratt delivered a perfect cross-ice pass to Milligan who buried his seventh playoff goal.

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Victoria’s Blake Roney speeds down the wing ahead of the Panther’s Cole Glover (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Cougars regained their lead on what looked like an innocent play at 14:58. From the blue line, Jake Stolz beat Stephen Heslop with a long lazy point shot.

Sam McMullen, who leads all VIJHL players in postseason scoring with 18 points, assisted on Victoria’s third goal. After sidestepping a check along the side wall, McMullen fed Fretz whose shot from the top of the goal crease found the back of the net.

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The Cougar’s Jake Stolz (left) surprises the Panther’s Tylor Branzsen (right) with an unconventional move during a tussle at the end of the first period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Some rough stuff at the end of the period resulted in coincidental penalties to Stolz and Tylor Branzsen.

There was no scoring until the 12:21 mark of the second period when Jordan Marciniak beat Heslop from the slot. Fortunately for the Cougars, Sean Buchanan rang the puck off the iron on the preceding play.

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Victoria’s Jordan Marciniak (left) celebrates his second period goal with Nicholas Lyons (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

And then with 44.7 seconds remaining in the period, Wade Johnson tipped home a Kemmler point shot to put Victoria up 5-1.

After allowing five goals on 27 shots, Heslop was replaced by Joey Karrer at the start of the third period.

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Traffic was heavy in front of Panther goaltender Stephen Heslop during second period action Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The backup goalie immediately received a rude welcoming. From the bottom of the right faceoff circle, Fretz notched his second goal of the game at 1:26 by lifting the puck over Karrer.

An elbowing penalty to Reece Costain put the Cougars on their second power play. McMullen, who was parked on the doorstep, rounded out the scoring at 10:59.

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Although he gave up 5 goals on 27 shots, Panther goaltender Stephen Heslop was able to grab this loose puck during the second period Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Karrer settled down to finish with eight saves.

Half-a-minute after the goal from McMullen, things started to get ugly. After Marciniak knocked Grayson Vickers to the ice, Des Bast took exception and went after the Victoria forward. After the dust settled, Bast received a two-minute minor for slashing, a two-minute minor for instigating, a five-minute major for fighting, and an automatic game misconduct.

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Victoria’s Jordan Marciniak (10) lays out the Panther’s Grayson Vickers with a huge body check in the third period Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Marciniak received a fighting major and a game misconduct for his part.

The penalties resulted in a four minute power play for the Cougars. It then became a two-man advantage for one minute and eight-seconds after Vickers received a roughing penalty.

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The Panther’s Des Bast (right), who took offence to the Cougar’s Jordan Marciniak’s body check on Grayson Vickers (previous photo), prepares to throw a punch at Marciniak during their third perid scrap Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Peninsula, who was slowly losing its composure, successfully killed off the penalties.

And with 1.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Milligan and Zadra each received penalties for roughing.

Victoria went 2-for-5 with the man advantage while the Panthers went 0-for-1.

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With his 2 goals and 1 assist, the Cougar’s Michael Fretz was the game’s first star (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Beauchamp, who was named the game’s third star, stopped 27 shots.

The defensive duo of Stolz and Zadra was once again superb.

Game 2 goes Friday, March 21 in North Saanich. Game time at the Panorama Recreation Centre, located at 1885 Forest Park Drive, is 7:30 p.m.

THREE STARS:

  • 1st star, Michael Fretz (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
  • 2nd star, Jake Stolz (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
  • 3rd star, Connor Beauchamp (Saves: 27, Save Percentage: .964)

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