Victoria Cougars return to action following an extended Xmas break

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Peter Kung 

It is back to business for the Victoria Cougars.

(ISN) – Mark Van Helvoirt and his well-rested charges take to the ice this Thursday against the Kerry Park Islanders in what marks the first game back for Victoria in 17 days.

Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.

The Cougars (29-4-1-0) shoot for their third straight victory following wins over Kerry Park and the Nanaimo Buccaneers.

It will be the sixth time this season Victoria has faced the Islanders. And each time, the Cougars have come away with victories. Their last meeting was an 8-2 win for Victoria on December 18.

Kerry Park had the unfavourable and unfortunate task of dealing with an angry and ferocious Cougars squad who had its nine-game winning streak snapped only 24-hours earlier by the Westshore Wolves.

Taking their frustrations out on the unsuspecting Islanders, Victoria jumped out to period leads of 4-0 and 6-1. Michael Fretz had two goals and three assists, Ryan Carson and Robert Zadra each had one goal and three assists, John Kretzschmar had three goals, and Austin Wilk had three assists for the Cougars.

Grant Payne, who was filling in for the injured Anthony Ciurro, stopped 17 shots for his 12th win of the season.

In five meetings so far, Victoria has outscored the Islanders 27-6.

Carson leads the way against Kerry Park with four goals and nine assists followed by Fretz with five goals and seven assists and Zadra with three goals and eight assists. Sam McMullen, who leads the VIJHL scoring race with 67 points, has four goals and three assists against the Islanders.

Both Ciurro and Payne have each recorded shutouts in the season series.

Zack Smith leads Kerry Park (13-19-1-3) against the Cougars with one goal and two assists.

Leighton Williams, who earned a spot as one of three goaltenders to represent Team South at the VIJHL All-Star Game slated for later this month, has been pulled from two of his last three starts against Victoria.

The two teams will meet twice more before all is said and done.

It has been an Unhappy New Year for the Islanders. Last Friday, Kerry Park was defeated 5-1 by the Peninsula Panthers before getting shut out 4-0 by the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Saturday.

Prior to the holiday break, the Islanders had been playing some of their best hockey – garnering eight out of a possible 12 points in December. Since then, Kerry Park has dropped four straight games. All four loses have come on the road.

With a record of 9-7-1-2 at the Kerry Park Recreation Centre, the Islanders have won four straight games there. That streak will be tested on Saturday against the fourth-place Saanich Braves who currently sit one point back of Kerry Park in the South Island Division standings.

The VIJHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching. January 10 is the final opportunity for teams to make additions to their rosters from other teams.

Elsewhere on Thursday, the VIJHL-leading Campbell River Storm travels to Nanaimo to take on the Buccaneers at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

STANDINGS: Victoria – 1st place, 59 points, South Island Division. Kerry Park – 3rd place, 30 points, South Island Division

OFFENSE: Victoria – 2nd place, 4.91 goals for per game. Kerry Park – 6th place, 3.61 goals for per game

DEFENSE: Victoria – 1st place, 1.97 goals against per game. Kerry Park – 8th place, 4.42 goals against per game

TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Michael Fretz, 27 goals; Sam McMullen, 46 assists; Sam McMullen, 67 points; John Kretzschmar, 65 penalty minutes. Kerry Park – Zack Smith, 21 goals; Braedan Cross, 28 assists; Braedan Cross, 48 points; Nick White, 77 penalty minutes

GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Anthony Ciurro (1.51 goals against average, .934 save percentage); Grant Payne (2.38 goals against average, .897 save percentage). Kerry Park – Leighton Williams (4.29 goals against average, .906 save percentage); Ty Rennie (4.53 goals against average, .885 save percentage)

POWER PLAY: Victoria – 1st place, 41-for-178, 23.03 percent. Kerry Park – 4th place, 33-for-175, 18.86 percent

PENALTY KILL: Victoria – 1st place, 144-for-157, 91.72 percent. Kerry Park – 9th place, 166-for-218, 76.15 percent

SEASON SERIES: Victoria leads, 5-0-0-0

September 25, 2014. Kerry Park Islanders 1 @ Victoria Cougars 5
October 5, 2014. Victoria Cougars 4 @ Kerry Park Islanders 3 (OT)
November 8, 2014. Victoria Cougars 6 @ Kerry Park Islanders 0
November 22, 2014. Victoria Cougars 4 @ Kerry Park Islanders 0
December 18, 2014. Kerry Park Islanders 2 @ Victoria Cougars 8
January 31, 2015. Victoria Cougars @ Kerry Park Islanders
February 12, 2015. Kerry Park Islanders @ Victoria Cougars

HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 14-1-1-0. Kerry Park – Away, 4-12-0-1

STREAKS: Victoria, 2-0-0-0. Kerry Park, 0-4-0-0

LAST TEN: Victoria, 9-1-0-0. Kerry Park, 4-6-0-0