Braves Open 2015 With Pair of Wins

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Saanich, BC (ISN) – The Saanich Braves have started 2015 in fine fashion with a pair of back-to-back wins, defeating the Peninsula Panthers 1-0 on New Year’s Day at Panorama Recreation Centre and then following that up with a 6-1 thrashing of the Nanaimo Buccaneers on Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

Saanich Brave players Nyshan Basra (12) and Hunter Atchison (14) helped lead the Braves to a pair of wins this week against Peninsula and Nanaimo.  Atchison had the only goal in the 1-0 win over Peninsula Thursday while Basra had a hat-trick and assist against the Buccaners on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win, mirrored with two wins prior to the Christmas break, gives the Braves a modest four game win streak and more importantly moves the Braves to within one point of the Kerry Park Islanders for third place in the South Division of the VIJHL. The Islanders fell to Peninsula 5-1 Friday.

In Thursday night’s affair at Peninsula, the Braves took awhile to shake off their Christmas and New Year’s turkey, mustering just five first period shots at Panthers goalie Alex Olson.

Fortunately the Panthers seemed to have the same difficulty, and while the Panthers tossed a few more shots at the net than the Braves did, the two teams went nearly two-and-a-half periods without scoring.

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Saanich defenceman Alex Schleuter (19) has been a quiet leader on the back end, earning a pair of assists Friday in the 6-1 win over Nanaimo (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It was the Braves Hunter Atchison who finally broke the ice and scored at the 14:47 mark of the third period to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.

That would be the only goal of the game however, as Saanich goaltender Brandon Ward would stand tall, stopping all 32 shots that he saw to earn his third shut-out of the season and give the Braves the win. Olson would stop 19 of 20 in the losing effort.

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Saanich goaltender Riley Mathieson makes one of his 19 first period saves Friday against Nanaimo.  Mathieson would stop 33 of 34 total to get the 6-1 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On Friday against Nanaimo, the Braves would also get out to a slow start, getting outshot 19-3 by the Bucs in the first period. It would only be thanks to some solid goaltending from starter Riley Mathieson, who stopped all of those 19 shots, that the Braves escaped the first period without being scored upon.

In fact the Braves would come out of the period with a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal at the 15:33 mark by Nyshan Basra, his 19th of the season and first of three on the night, on the Braves third and final shot of the period. Basra was set up nicely by Hunter Atchison and tapped the puck past Nanaimo starter Greg Maggio.

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Saanich’s Nyshan Basra would have three goals and an assist to lead the Braves to a 6-1 win over Nanaimo Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Basra would strike again early in the second period when he would block a Buccaneer shot at his own blue line and then skate in on a partial breakaway, then getting a lucky bounce as his initial shot bounced off Maggio and then off a Nanaimo back-checker and into the net at the 2:39 mark, putting the Braves up 2-0.

The Buccaneers would respond just two minutes later, on a breakaway of their own, as Carter Turnbull would make a nifty deke and put the puck throught the legs of Mathieson to cut the Braves lead in half.

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This breakaway goal by Nanaimo’s Carter Turnbull would be the only blemish on the record of Saanich goaltender Riley Mathieson, who stopped 33 shots in the Braves 6-1 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Bucs momentum would not last long however and at the 7:52 mark, Basra found himself in all alone for a second time and he would complete the hat-trick, putting the Braves up 3-1.

Just 15 seconds later Basra would factor into another goal, this time setting up Atchison who snuck the puck past Maggio on the short-side to make it 4-1 and knock Maggio out of the game after surrendering the four Saanich goals on just seven shots. Maggio was replaced by back up Liam Young who stopped the remaining four Brave shots of the period.

In the third, the Braves received a pair of goals from centre Ben Meek, his eighth and ninth of the season, to put the game away and seal the 6-1 win.

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Saanich’s Scott Henderson (23) takes a hit from Nanaimo’s Liam Craig while making a pass in Friday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For Basra, his three goals and an assist earned him first star honours and moved his team leading point total to 40, with 21 goals and 19 assists. He continues to stay hot, with 12 points (6G, 6A) in his last six games. Atchison is also beginning to heat up, with seven points (4G, 3A) in his last six games.

It will be important for those players to keep performing well, as the Braves are without the services of Captain Dayne Ellison (upper body), Seamus Maguire (lower body), Kyle Schnettler (unknown) and Evan Horvath (unknown), who are out with injuries.

Mathieson, who secured his second win as a Brave, has settled in nicely after a rough start in his first two games. He has allowed just a single goal against in his last two starts (both wins) and on Friday, stopped 33 of 34 shots in the winning effort.

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Saanich’s Ben Meek is all smiles as he celebrates one of his two goals against Nanaimo on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Braves record now improves to 12-19-0-5 and as mentioned, they sit one point back of Kerry Park and perhaps will have a chance to leap frog the Islanders into third next Saturday Jan. 10 when the Braves travel to Mill Bay for a 7:30 pm start. The Islanders do play the Cougars Thursday, but if they lose that, it sets the Braves up for a chance to move into third with a win in that Saturday game.

Game Notes: The third period Friday became a bit chippy with both teams amassing over 60 minutes in penalties including fighting majors to the Braves Quinn Miller and Nanaimo’s Zach Funk. The Braves had three AP’s in the line-up Friday including Dale McCabe, Ryan Warner and Marty Westhaver. Alex Schleuter continues to quietly excel on the defensive end for the Braves and earned a pair of assists Friday.

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