Special Olympics

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

March 25, 2014, Saanich, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Capitals defeated the Saanich Watchdogs 3-1 in the second annual “Battle of the Badges” charity hockey game Tuesday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich, and in the process raised over $3,500 for the BC Special Olympics.

The fundraising game, which started off as a low-key challenge from one department to the other, has grown into a more evolved event. Last season the Watchdogs were victorious 4-2 but the real winners were the Special Olympics of British Columbia, who received a cheque for $3,000.

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Saanich’s Jon Cawsey (right) moves up ice under the watch of Victoria’s Ben King (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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Saanich’s Jon Zielinski (left) makes a pass over the stick of Victoria’s Phil DiBattista (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

“This year we have ramped things up a bit,” said event organizer and Saanich player Damian Kowalewich prior to the game. “We have some huge sponsors this season including the Royals, Grizzlies, and Saanich Braves to name a few and all proceeds will once again be going to the Special Olympics. We really hope to exceed our donation from last year and I think we can do that with all the great support we have this year.”

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Saanich’s Paul Egli battles for the puck with an unidentified Capitals player (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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Saanich’s Jeff Kreczmer (left) and Victoria’s Wayne Cox look for the puck after a face-off (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

As to the game itself, the near capacity crowd at Pearkes was treated to a dandy. Many of the players are former minor pro, junior and college players and while some have lost a step or two from their peak playing days, the pace of the game was a few steps above a typical old-timers affair. Add to that the incentive of the winning team getting to raise and fly their flag in front of the losing team’s office over a full weekend, and you had the makings of a spirited hockey game.

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Victoria’s Rob Woods carries the puck in his own end.  Woods would have the game winning goal Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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Victoria’s Chris Melbourne carries the puck through the neutral zone (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In a close checking affair, it would be the Watchdogs who would score first, as Glen MacKenzie would pick up a rebound in front of the net and find a way to slip it past the pad of Victoria goaltender Alex Stewart.

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Saanich’s Jon Zielinski evades the forecheck of Victoria’s Wayne Cox (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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Saanich’s Drew Hildred battles for the puck with Victoria’s Kyle Roy (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Capitals would answer back however before the period was out, when Ben King would find the net behind Saanich starter Randy Collins with just over 1:30 remaining in the frame.

After a scoreless second, the Capitals would strike early in the third with the go-ahead marker, as a miscue by Saanich defenceman Todd Lamb gave the puck in-close to Victoria’s Rob Woods, who made no mistake in snapping one over the right shoulder of Collins to put the Caps up 2-1.

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Victoria’s Kyle Roy (left) and Saanich’s Damian Kowalewich (right) reach for a loose puck (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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Victoria’s Rob Woods gets position on Saanich’s Marcus Anastasiades (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

That goal seemed to energize the Watchdogs and they would have numerous attempts over the period to tie the game, only to be denied by some excellent goaltending from Stewart. The Watchdogs, desperate to keep their hold on the trophy from last year, even tried the strategy of putting big-bodied forward Drew Hildred right on Stewart’s doorstep to create a screen, but the Capitals kept the Watchdogs off the score board.

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Saanich’s Drew Hildred tries to put up a screen in front of the Victoria net (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

With time running down, the Watchdogs pulled their goalie for one last-ditch effort to tie the game, but an empty net goal from Wayne Cox sealed the deal and gave the Capitals the 3-1 win.

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Saanich’s Martin d’Anjou (left) and Victoria’s Jason Laidman (right) battle for position in front of Victoria goaltender Alex Stewart (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

As noted the real winners on the night were the Special Olympics of British Columbia and it was Special Olympian Mike Milligan who came on to the ice to accept the winning trophy from Victoria Capitals Captain Brad Fraser.  In addition the Saanich and Victoria Police Departments estimate that they have surpassed last year’s total and will be presenting the Special Olympics with a cheque for close to $3,500 dollars.

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Victoria Captain Brad Fraser (left) watches as Special Olympian Mike Milligan (right) raises the winning trophy over his head (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

For those that could not get to the game and want to make a donation to the cause, you can do so directly to Special Olympics B.C. at specialolympics.bc.ca

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Both teams pose with the trophy following the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)