ESQUIMALT, B.C. – Victoria Cougars head coach Mark Van Helvoirt is not afraid to use his fourth line.
The trio of Kenny Britton, Liam Kinshella, and Akila Sato-Gaudreau showed why Thursday night against the Saanich Braves.
Britton scored twice in helping lead Victoria to a 4-3 victory at the Archie Browning Sports Centre. The win extended the Cougars winning streak to 23 games.
Also scoring for Victoria (33-4-1-0) were John Kretzschmar and Ryan Carson.
Saanich (11-22-2-4) gave the powerhouse Cougars all that they can handle despite playing with a short bench. Missing from the Braves lineup were Mackenzie Valentine, Cameron Kovesdi, Scott Henderson, Jordan Parmar, and former Victoria Royals forward Brandon Fushimi.
The score was tied 1-1 after one period before Victoria went up 3-1 through two periods.
Britton opened the scoring when he spun and fired the puck past Braves goalie Riley Mathieson at 1:56. Assisting on the goal were Sato-Gaudreau and Kinshella.
Then at 3:05, Jack Rachwalski scored his first of two goals to tie the game at 1-1. After Cougars netminder Gregory Maggio made the initial stop on Dale McCabe, Johnny-on-the-spot was Rachwalski who banged home the rebound for his eighth goal of the season.
Mathieson, who was named the game’s third star, stopped 19 shots in the period which included denying Brett Lervold on a breakaway.
There was no scoring until the 7:18 mark of the second period when Victoria would tally twice in a span of under a minute and a half.
After taking a touch pass from Carson, Kretzschmar showed off his elite speed before firing a wrist shot past Mathieson.
The Cougars padded their lead 89 seconds later when Britton converted a Sato-Gaudreau rebound into a goal. For the rugged winger, it was his third goal in two games.
Carson, who hit the goal post in the second period, gave Victoria a 4-1 lead at 7:19 of the third period when he skated out from the corner to the slot and fired the puck just under the blocker of Mathieson.
Momentum began to change when Rachwalski made the most of a two-man advantage with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
The two-man advantage came after Britton and Nico Somerville were given minor penalties 17 seconds apart.
Just before time ran out, McCabe recorded his 14th goal of the season with 56.7 seconds remaining to pull Saanich to within one. The goal came with Mathieson on the bench for an extra attacker.
Dom Kolbeins, who had his 35 game point streak come to an end, was one of the few Cougars players to have a good game.
Despite picking up the win and outshooting the Braves 48-23, Victoria turned in a poor effort.
Nathan Looysen also had his 31 game point streak snapped while Cody Hodges had his 25 game point streak come to a screeching halt.
The Cougars went 0-for-3 on the power play while Saanich finished 1-for-4.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Sheldon Brett scored twice and Marcus Gloss made 31 saves as the visiting Comox Valley Glacier Kings doubled up on the Nanaimo Buccaneers 4-2.
Next game for Victoria is Sunday, January 24 against the Nanaimo Buccaneers. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 3:30 p.m.
1st star, Kenny Britton (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2nd star, Akila Sato-Gaudreau (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
3rd star, Riley Mathieson (Saves: 44, Save Percentage: .917)