Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
September 4, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars were in mid-season form on Thursday night as they scored early and often en route to a 9-0 rout of the Saanich Braves in the opening game of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) season for both teams at Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt.
Although he would be foiled on this chance by Saanich goaltender Jason Stewart, Victoria’s Marino Somerville would score three goals against the Braves on Thursday night (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Braves started Nick Dueck in net and the former Westshore Wolve had barely scraped up his crease when Robert Zadra scored one minute into the game to give the Cougars a quick 1-0 lead.
The Cougars continued to dominate the first period, outshooting the Braves 17-2 and thanks to a powerplay goal from Marino Somerville at 9:04 and a short-handed breakaway goal from Somerville at 11:30, came out of the first period with a 3-0 lead.
Cougars defenceman Robert Zadra would have a pair of goals and a pair of assists to lead the Cougars to their 9-0 win Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
It did not get much better for the Braves in period 2, as once again the Cougars would score early, getting a rebound goal at 1:32 from Howard Howden. Another powerplay goal at 10:16, Zadra’s second of the game, on a point shot that surprised a screened Dueck, spelled the end of the night for the Braves goaltender and he was replaced by backup Jason Stewart.
Victoria’s John Kretzschmer would have a goal and two assists Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
They say you need to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good and that was plainly evident on the Cougar’s sixth goal. Defenseman Jake Stolz cleared the centre red line and fired a simple shoot-in along the boards and toward the corner of the rink. Saanich goaltender Stewart came out to play the shoot-in and then watched helplessly as the puck hit a stantion between the glass, changed direction and rolled into the wide-open net. That goal gave the Cougars a 6-0 lead into the break, after a period they once again dominated, outshooting the Braves 34-5 total at that point.
Saanich defenceman Garrett Stankoven carries the puck into the Victoria end on a rare Saanich offensive rush Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The third period would go much the same, with the Cougars taking the play to the Braves, outshooting them 13-3 for the period and getting goals from Wade Johnson, on the powerplay, at 1:59, Somerville, his third at 2:54 and John Kretzschmar at 19:12 to round out the scoring for the game.
On the plus side for the Braves, they can take some solace in the fact that this was only the first game of the season, one against the defending VIJHL champions, and other than a pair of mixed squad exhibition games against Westshore, was really their first real game in anger of the young season.
Saanich forward Cameron Kovesdi looks for an opening under the watchful eye of Victoria defender Taylor Hickman (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Braves were also missing some key players, with Dayne Ellison serving a suspension for a fight against Westshore, Hunter Atchison away at a BCHL camp, and Cam Mackay and Kyle Schnettler sidelined with early season injuries.
To fill the gaps, affiliate players Elliott MacIsaac and Mike Sproule made their VIJHL debuts alongside of Braves rookies Cameron Kovesdi, Mike Affleck and Alex Schleuter, while five other “seasoned” rookies (players who have played some affiliate games but are considered rookies this season) were also in the line-up, including Conner Allan, Jordan Parmar, Evan Badry, Connor Birmingham and goaltender Stewart.
Victoria defenceman Jake Stolz (2) would have a goal and an assist in the Cougar attack Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Bottom line, it will take a game or two, and probably some hard-working practices, for this young team to begin to find its chemistry. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, as the Braves received no favours from the VIJHL schedulers to start this season, playing the Cougars in 2 of their first 4 games, and the always tough Westshore Wolves in the other two. The Braves will also play those next three games in three days straight, visiting Westhsore on Wednesday, Victoria on Thursday and then hosting Westshore for their home opener on Friday the 12th.
Saanich’s Cameron Kovsdi navigates through the neutral zone during the third period Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Zadra added two assists to finish with 4 points on the night. The Cougars Ryan Carson and Sam McMullen had 3 assists each. Anthony Ciurro started in net for the Cougars. Somerville, Zadra and Kretzschmar (1G, 2A) were the three stars.