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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

February 20, 2015, Saanich, BC (ISN) – James Severs had a hat-trick to lead the Westshore Wolves to a 7-3 win over the Saanich Braves in Game 2 of their first round South Division Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) playoff series Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

Westshore’s James Severs celebrates his third goal in the Wolves 7-3 win over Saanich on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win evens the best of seven series at a game each, as the Braves opened the series with a 4-1 win at The Q Centre last Wednesday evening, a game in which they scored four unanswered goals to get the win. Scoring Wednesday for the Braves were Ben Meek, Quinn Miller, Nick Kean and Jordan Parmar. In that game too, the Braves got a 39 save effort from goaltender Brandon Ward, a key factor in the win.

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Saanich’s Connor Birmingham (4) prepares for a hard landing after being checked by the Wolves Nicholos Polomark (14) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On Friday, things continued to go the Braves way early as they jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the second period, thanks to goals from Jordan Parmar, Jack Rachwalski and Nick Kean, while the Wolves responded with a goal from Rylan Ball. Ward once again was playing well, including stopping a first period penalty shot from Ball, and the Braves were playing a well disciplined and defensively responsible game.

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Things were looking good for the Braves early when goaltender Brandon Ward stopped Westshore’s Rylan Ball on this first period penalty shot (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Then something weird happened and all of that stopped. Perhaps the Wolves, tired of being out-scored 7-1 over four plus periods of playoff hockey finally decided to show up and play. Or perhaps the Braves got a little too cocky, thinking that they were going to coast to an easy win and a 2-0 lead in the series.

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Saanich’s Mackenzie Valentine (8) makes a pass under pressure from Westshore’s Spencer Preece (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Whatever the case, just a minute after Kean’s goal that put the Braves up 3-1, Severs notched his first for the Wolves to put them within a goal. That seemed to motivate the Westshore squad who dominated the rest of the period and who finished by scoring three more goals within a less than a two-minute span to shock the Braves and jump into a 5-3 lead.

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Westshore’s Cory Peterson (18) avoids the check of Saanich’s Jordan Parmar (24) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Starting the explosion was Spencer Preece, who scored on the power play at 17:13 to tie the game 3-3. Just a minute later, Nicholas Polomark scored to put the Wolves up 4-3 and 30 seconds later, Severs had scored his second to make it 5-3.

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Westshore’s Cory Hatcher (8) would get to his knees just in time to avoid being wiped out by the Braves Jack Rachwalski (9) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Braves managed to get to the break without any further damage and were further buoyed by the fact they would start the third on an extended power play, thanks to a four minute penalty to the Wolves Christian Brandt for head-butting received late in the second.

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Saanich’s Nick Kean (11) celeebrates his second period goal that gave the Braves a 3-1 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That optimism was quickly extinguished however just 2:44 into the third, when Severs would score his hat-trick goal short-handed to increase the lead to 6-4.

While the Braves made a valiant effort to come back, firing 18 shots at the Westshore net in the third period, Wolves goaltender Chris Smith, who looked shaky eary on, settled in nicely and stopped all 18 shots to help the Wolves maintain the lead. An insurance goal from Connor Krupa at 18:55 helped seal the deal and give the Wolves the big win.

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Saanich’s Hunter Atchison (14) splits a pair of Westshore defenders during this rush up the ice (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

They will now carry that momentum into Game 3 of the series, which happens at The Q Centre on Sunday February 22 at 5:00 pm.

It will be an interesting game for sure and perhaps a key game in deciding the series, as fans will be eager to see how the young Braves respond after a tough defeat, and also to see which of the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde Westshore teams shows up.

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Saanich’s Kyle Schnettler (2) carries the puck out of his end (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Wolves have had a tendency this season to be an up and down team and as the Braves showed them over the first four periods of this series, the “down” team they have will not win this series. The Braves on the other hand now know what it takes to beat the Wolves. They cannot let their guard slip one bit and have to stay true to their game plan and play a full 60 minutes to have success. Any slip up from that, like the one tonight for the last few minutes of the second period, will be nothing short of fatal for their playoff chances.

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Saanich’s Evan Horvath (15) lays a heavy check on Westshore’s Nicolas Polomark (14) druing the third period Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: Finals shots were 32-31 for the Wolves. Saanich’s Seamus Maguire (upper-body injury) and Westshore’s Tyler Smith (suspension) and Jordan Law (unknown) did not play. Westshore’s Clay Carson was ejected early in the game for a checking from behind penalty. Westshore’s Christian Brandt left the game a few minutes early with what appeared to be an upper-body injury. Saanich’s Dane Ellison was presented with a VIJHL Community Leadership Award at the start of the game.

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Prior to the game Friday, Saanich Captain Dayne Ellison was presented with a VIJHL Community Leadership Award by VIJHL President Myles Parsons (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)