The Victoria Cougars (36-5-1-1) host the Saanich Braves (11-25-2-5) in a key divisional matchup this Thursday.
Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.
With only five games remaining in the regular season for both teams, Victoria controls its fate in terms of playoff seeding while the Braves seek help from elsewhere.
The Cougars currently trail the Campbell River Storm by two points for top spot in the nine-team Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. But Victoria has three games in hand on its North Island counterpart.
Meanwhile, Saanich can guarantee a playoff spot if they can win out and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings lose their final two games. If not, the Braves will face the Oceanside Generals for the right to play the Storm in Round 1 of the 2016 VIJHL Playoffs.
Leading the Generals by three points in the standings, Saanich currently owns home ice advantage for the wild-card game to be played immediately once the regular season is over with. In their season series with Oceanside, the Braves have won three out of the four meetings played.
It will be a tall order for Saanich to keep up with the Cougars. Versus Victoria this season, the Braves have lost five of six meetings which included a 6-2 loss the last time the two teams met.
Brandon Fushimi was handed a two-game suspension at the end of January for Harassment of Officials and will not be in the lineup on Thursday. The suspension will keep the former Victoria Royals forward out until Friday when the Braves host the Kerry Park Islanders.
Saanich dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the mighty Storm last Friday at the Pearkes Recreation Centre, leaving them winless in its last six games. Two of those losses though have come in extra time.
Offensive production has been an issue for the Braves. The team has scored a league low 120 goals. However, Dale McCabe has been more than a pleasant surprise. The 17-year-old rookie has tallied 15 goals and leads Saanich in scoring with 29 points.
The Cougars enter the game riding a three game winning streak after defeating the Peninsula Panthers 4-2 last Friday.
Ryan Carson, Dom Kolbeins, John Kretzschmar, and Nathan Looysen tallied for Victoria. In net was Anthony Ciurro who stopped 24 shots for his league leading 24th win.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Ethan Sundstrum and the Oceanside Generals visit Will Koop and the Nanaimo Buccaneers.
STANDINGS: Victoria – 1st place, 74 points, South Island Division. Saanich – 5th place, 29 points, South Island Division
OFFENSE: Victoria – 1st place, 5.42 goals for per game. Saanich – 9th place, 2.79 goals for per game
DEFENSE: Victoria – 1st place, 1.86 goals against per game. Saanich – 7th place, 4.19 goals against per game
TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Nathan Looysen, 39 goals; Nathan Looysen, 59 assists; Nathan Looysen, 98 points; Kenny Britton, 126 penalty minutes. Saanich – Dale McCabe, 15 goals; Jack Rachwalski, 19 assists; Dale McCabe, 29 points; Thomas Sercombe, 129 penalty minutes
GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Anthony Ciurro (1.70 goals against average, .929 save percentage); Gregory Maggio (2.00 goals against average, .908 save percentage). Saanich – Riley Mathieson (4.00 goals against average, .881 save percentage); Bryce Schiebel (4.50 goals against average, .868 save percentage)
POWER PLAY: Victoria – 1st place, 66-for-234, 28.21 percent. Saanich – 5th place, 35-for-206, 16.99 percent
PENALTY KILL: Victoria – 1st place, 199-for-224, 88.84 percent. Saanich – 5th place, 169-for-210, 80.48 percent
SEASON SERIES: Victoria leads, 5-1-0-0
PAST RESULTS/FUTURE MEETINGS:
September 25, 2015. Victoria Cougars 2 @ Saanich Braves 4
October 8, 2015. Saanich Braves 0 @ Victoria Cougars 8
October 16, 2015. Victoria Cougars 8 @ Saanich Braves 3
December 10, 2015. Saanich Braves 2 @ Victoria Cougars 4
January 21, 2016. Saanich Braves 3 @ Victoria Cougars 4
January 29, 2016. Victoria Cougars 6 @ Saanich Braves 2
February 19, 2016. Victoria Cougars @ Saanich Braves
HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 19-1-1-1. Saanich – Away, 3-14-1-3
STREAKS: Victoria, 3-0-0-0. Saanich, 0-4-0-2
LAST TEN: Victoria, 8-1-0-1. Saanich, 1-6-0-3