Can the Victoria Cougars defend their title?

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For the first time ever, the Victoria Cougars will open the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs against the Westshore Wolves.

Game 1 goes this Thursday at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.

Victoria and the Wolves have met once before in the playoffs.  Two years ago, the Cougars swept Westshore four-games-to-none in the South Island Division Finals.

Goaltender Anthony Ciurro and defenseman Ryan Vorster of Victoria as well as forwards Cory Hatcher and Nicholas Polomark of the Wolves are the only remaining players from that series.

The Cougars (35-8-0-5), who won the Andy Hebenton Trophy for the seventh straight year after posting the most points than any other team during the regular season, have guaranteed themselves home ice advantage throughout the entirety of the VIJHL playoffs.

Entering the game on Thursday, Victoria has won its last nine games.  The defending VIJHL champion Cougars finished the regular season with the second best offense, scoring a total of 208 goals.  On the other hand, Suneil Karod’s squad was the best defensive team in the league, allowing just 124 goals against.

Victoria also possessed the top penalty killing unit, having surrendered only 34 power play goals.  And their power play was also tops in the VIJHL, notching 57 goals for an efficiency rate of 23.85 percent.

Head-to-head, the Cougars went 6-2-0-0 versus Westshore during the regular season.  Victoria outscored the Wolves by a margin of 35-20 in the process.

 

Grayden Hohl has given Westshore fits all season long.  The Cougars leading scorer recorded 14 points in the eight meetings.

 

Points-wise, Victoria heads into the playoffs with 11 players posting 30 points or more.  That is the most of any team in the VIJHL.

 

A workhorse all season for the Cougars, Ciurro went 18-6-0-4 while compiling a 2.48 goals against average, a .917 save percentage, and one shutout in 29 games.  If Ciurro needs a rest, former Prince George Spruce Kings goalie Liam McCloskey is more than capable of stepping in.

 

Westshore (20-23-2-3) finished fourth in the South Island Division, one point back of the Kerry Park Islanders.

 

Brandon Tutte led the Wolves in scoring with 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points.  One of the lowest scoring teams in the VIJHL, Westshore finished 60 goals behind the Cougars.

 

If the Wolves have any chance of advancing to the next round, they must keep Victoria off the power play.  The Cougars scored eight times in 47 opportunities.

 

On the back end, Zach Benson, Michael Jensen, Clark Pickup, Mitch Popp, Stephen Stiliadis, Jake Watson, and the always dependable Joe Gage will all have their hands full in slowing down Victoria’s multitude of offensive weapons.

Shawn Parkinson and Jordan Spandli are the last line of defense for Westshore.

Other playoff matches include:  Kerry Park Islanders vs. Saanich Braves.  Peninsula Panthers vs. Campbell River Storm.  Comox Valley Glacier Kings vs. Nanaimo Buccaneers.

 

GAME 1:  Thursday, February 23, 2017

Westshore Wolves @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

7:00 p.m.

 

GAME 2:  Friday, February 24, 2017

Victoria Cougars @ Westshore Wolves

The Q Centre

6:30 p.m.

 

GAME 3:  Sunday, February 26, 2017

Westshore Wolves @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

3:30 p.m.

 

GAME 4:  Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Victoria Cougars @ Westshore Wolves

The Q Centre

7:00 p.m.

 

GAME 5 (if necessary):  Thursday, March 2, 2017

Westshore Wolves @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

7:00 p.m.

 

GAME 6 (if necessary):  Saturday, March 4, 2017

Victoria Cougars @ Westshore Wolves

The Q Centre

4:30 p.m.

 

GAME 7 (if necessary):  Sunday, March 5, 2017

Westshore Wolves @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

3:30 p.m.

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