The Victoria Cougars return home for a pivotal matchup with the Saanich Braves this Thursday.Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.Fans wearing Cougars apparel will be let in for only five dollars.
Top spot in the South Island Division is on the line and each game from hereon in is of the utmost importance.Victoria (28-8-0-5) continues to lead the South Island Division, holding a four point lead on the second place Braves.Thursday marks the seventh of eight meetings between these two divisional rivals. Saanich has won the last four head-to-head matches but not before the Cougars took the first two games by scores of 4-1 and 2-1 back in September. Two of the Braves wins have come in overtime.
The red-hot Cougars finished the month of January without a regulation loss. Suneil Karod and his troops went 5-0-0-2 during that span.Victoria is coming off a successful four-game road trip which saw wins over the Kerry Park Islanders, Oceanside Generals, and Westshore Wolves. The only blemish was a 3-2 overtime loss to the Nanaimo Buccaneers.
Now that the Canadian Junior Curling Championships are over, the Cougars can return home to play four of their last seven games there.Saanich (27-12-1-2) comes into the game on a modest two-game winning streak. Prior to, the Braves had dropped three of their last five games which included a 3-2 loss to the North Island Division cellar dwelling Generals.Brandon Fushimi and Michael Sproule were healthy scratches that night.
Since that ill-fated game, Saanich has reeled off convincing wins over the Comox Valley Glacier Kings and Westshore.Nick Guerra continues to lead the VIJHL in scoring with 42 goals and 29 assists for 71 points in 39 games. If Guerra can go on and win the scoring title outright, he will become the first Braves player to lay hands on the Doug Morton Trophy since Mark Johnston did it back in 1998-99.The Doug Morton Trophy was co-shared in 2011-12 by Ty Jones of Saanich and Steven Axford of the Cougars.
Some bad news transpired since the last time the Braves met Victoria. Dale McCabe, who had been centering Guerra and Kelowna Rockets prospect Ted Brennan on the top line, underwent season ending surgery.The 18-year-old Victoria, B.C. native last played on Friday, January 13 and had put up 48 points until then.
Game night sponsor, Island Health, will be in attendance and will have an information booth set up and employees on hand to answer any questions.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Comox Valley travels to Nanaimo to take on the Buccaneers at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
STANDINGS: Victoria – 1st place, 61 points, South Island Division. Saanich – 2nd place, 57 points, South Island Division
OFFENSE: Victoria – 2nd place, 4.20 goals for per game. Saanich – 3rd place, 4.10 goals for per game
DEFENSE: Victoria – 2nd place, 2.63 goals against per game. Saanich – 4th place, 3.05 goals against per game
TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Grayden Hohl, 24 goals; Grayden Hohl, 29 assists; Grayden Hohl, 53 points; Owen Dalman, 131 penalty minutes. Saanich – Nick Guerra, 42 goals; Dale McCabe, 33 assists; Nick Guerra, 71 points; Mitch Moloney, 155 penalty minutes
GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Anthony Ciurro (2.48 goals against average, .914 save percentage); Liam McCloskey (3.12 goals against average, .902 save percentage). Saanich – Bryce Schiebel (2.70 goals against average, .912 save percentage); Riley Mathieson (3.10 goals against average, .906 save percentage)
POWER PLAY: Victoria – 2nd place, 45-for-197, 22.84 percent. Saanich – 6th place, 39-for-225, 17.33 percent
PENALTY KILL: Victoria – 1st place, 180-for-205, 87.80 percent. Saanich – 5th place, 173-for-209, 82.78 percent
SEASON SERIES: Saanich leads series, 4-2-0-0
PAST RESULTS/FUTURE MEETINGS:
September 8, 2016. Saanich Braves 1 @ Victoria Cougars 4
September 23, 2016. Victoria Cougars 2 @ Saanich Braves 1
October 6, 2016. Saanich Braves 2 @ Victoria Cougars 1
October 14, 2016. Victoria Cougars 5 @ Saanich Braves 6 (OT)
November 10, 2016. Saanich Braves 4 @ Victoria Cougars 2
January 6, 2017. Victoria Cougars 2 @ Saanich Braves 3 (OT)
February 10, 2017. Victoria Cougars @ Saanich Braves
HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 15-4-0-1. Saanich – Away, 13-7-1-0
STREAKS: Victoria, 2-0-0-0. Saanich, 2-0-0-0
LAST TEN: Victoria, 7-1-0-2. Saanich, 7-3-0-0