Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
October 8, 2014, Saanich, BC (ISN) – Nick Guerra had the hat-trick to help lead the Saanich Braves to a 6-2 win over the Oceanside Generals in VIJHL action Wednesday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich. The win snaps a 26-game losing streak (including playoffs) for the Braves that extends back to January 3, 2014.
Saanich’s Nick Guerra celebrates one of his three goals Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
To be exact, the Braves last won a game in anger nine months and five days ago. Babies have been conceived and born since the Braves prevailed that January night against the Kerry Park Islanders, so to say the win was a welcome one for the tough-luck Braves would be an understatement.
Wednesday night’s win came at the expense of the Oceanside Generals, a franchise that, like Saanich, has been going through some tough times. The Generals finished as the only team out of the VIJHL playoffs last season at 8-37-1-2 and prior to tonight’s game, had begun the 2014-2015 campaign with a 2-8 record. They are undergoing some organizational struggles, and have recently welcomed a new head coach.
Saanich’s Connor Birmingham (centre) battles for the puck between Oceanside’s Jake Mackenzie (left) and Wyatt Meiers (right)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
All of this played nicely into the Braves hands and they were jumping at the chance to play a weaker opponent, especially since their schedule has already included playing the defending VIJHL Champion Victoria Cougars four times in their first nine games.
That is not to say however that the Braves were taking the Generals lightly. The Generals lost to the Cougars by just a goal, defeated the tough Westshore Wolves in one of their wins and scored 10 goals against Peninsula in the other, so the Braves knew that they had to play at the top of their game and with some high energy if they were going to snap their long drought.
Saanich’s Cam Mackay (20) was a towering presence in front of the Oceanside net Wednesday, here battling Keegan Fedorko for position (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That is exactly what they did. The Braves came out with some zip in their game right off the opening face-off and were rewarded almost immediately when Kyle Schnettler snapped home the first goal of the game just 36 seconds in.
The Generals would respond however at the 5:26 mark when Sabastian Powsey would finish a nice 2-on-1 from Chase Gaudreault and suddenly the game was tied. Just as suddenly, the Braves would reclaim the lead when Cam Mackay would notch his first of the season at the 6:40 mark.
Saanich’s Evan Badry reaches for the puck while under pressure from Oceanside’s Grant Fisher (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
From then on it would be all Saanich and all Nick Guerra. The speedy forward, playing his fifth game since coming back from the Junior A Nanaimo Clippers, would get his first of the game on the powerplay at the 15:37 mark of the period to send the Braves into the first break up 3-1. His second, at 5:24 of the second, and third, just 30 seconds into the third, both sandwiched around Cameron Kovesdi’s first of the year at 11:29 of the second, would give the Braves a commanding 6-1 lead.
While the Generals would get one of those back on a goal from Gaudreault at the 10:40 mark of the third, it would be way too little, way too late and the Braves moved on to the long-awaited victory.
Saanich’s Jack Rachwalski (left) and Oceanside’s Keegan Kesler (right) battle as they watch the loose puck (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: The Braves outshot the Generals 53-22 and scored three goals on the powerplay. Guerra was named the game’s first star. The Brave’s Ben Meek and the General’s Tanner Brown were ejected early in the third for fighting. The Brave’s Evan Horvath was also ejected in the third for a major kneeing penalty.
It has been just over nine months since the scoreboard at Pearkes Arena showed a winning score for the home team Braves (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)