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Peter Kung

ESQUIMALT, B.C. – Grant Payne and Tyler Smith combined for a ten save shutout as the Victoria Cougars blanked the Kerry Park Islanders 6-0 on Thursday night.

The win enabled Victoria to leapfrog over the Campbell River Storm into sole possession of first place in the VIJHL standings. Both teams have two games remaining in the regular season and will face each other in a crucial matchup Friday in Campbell River.

Lane Van de Wetering and Sam McMullen led the way with a pair of goals while singles went to Michael Fretz and John Kretzschmar.

The Cougars (40-5-1-0), who extended their winning streak to eight games, scored four goals in the first period and another two in the second.

Shots on goal through 40 minutes were 36-5 in favour of Victoria.

Fretz opened the scoring at the 8:38 mark of the first period after he banged home an Austin Wilk rebound past Leighton Williams. For Fretz, it was his 37th goal of the season.

Doubling the lead was Van de Wetering who pounced all over a juicy rebound at 9:09. Williams made a great initial save off Kretzschmar but no one was there to keep Van de Wetering from scoring his first of two goals.

Then at 12:55, Kretzschmar wasted little time on the power play when he ripped a one-timer past Williams from the left faceoff circle. Assisting on the goal were Robert Zadra and Ryan Buse.

After a giveaway by a Kerry Park defender in his own zone, Van de Wetering picked up the loose puck and backhanded it over Williams at 15:02.

Williams was involved in a scary moment early in the second period when he collapsed to the ice favouring his arm. After getting attended to by athletic therapist Michelle Hynes, the Islanders goalie was able to remain in the game.

McMullen notched his 38th goal of the season at 4:24 after he made a breakaway look easy.

Then with his league leading 95th point, McMullen snuck the puck under Williams at 7:33. Watching the proceedings from the sin bin was Nick White who had just over a minute remaining in his cross-checking penalty.

Victoria was able to light the lamp twice on eight power play opportunities.

There was no scoring in the third period.

Although he faced only five shots in the first 40 minutes, Payne was sharp in the third period making four difficult saves before giving way to Smith.

Late in the game, David Bittner took exception to a hip check thrown by Buse. After trying to get his hands on the Cougars defender, Bitter was assessed a ten-minute misconduct. Then just under a minute later, Braedan Cross received an automatic ten-minute misconduct for checking to the head.

And as the horn sounded to end the game, players from both teams came together and began pushing and shoving one another.

Failing to score on three power play opportunities, Kerry Park (15-27-1-4) dropped their second straight game.

Victoria prevailed in all eight games with the Islanders this season.

Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Liam Shaw scored twice and Liam Young made 30 saves to lead the Comox Valley Glacier Kings to a 4-0 win over the Nanaimo Buccaneers in front of 180 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

Next game for the Cougars is Friday, February 13 against the Campbell River Storm. Game time at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena, located at 225 Dogwood Street, is 7:30 p.m.

THREE STARS:

1st star, Lane Van de Wetering (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)

2nd star, Robert Zadra (Goals: 0, Assists: 3)

3rd star, Leighton Williams (Saves: 44, Save Percentage: .880)

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