ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Victoria Cougars beat the Westshore Wolves 4-1 to take a 1-0 series lead on Thursday night.
Grayden Hohl was unstoppable, scoring twice and adding a pair of assists.
Victoria also benefited from some great goaltending by Anthony Ciurro who turned aside 28 shots for his 12th career playoff win. Many of those saves came off odd man rushes or from point blank range.
Game 2 of the series is set for Friday night at The Q Centre.
Playing without Nick Gomerich and Kyle Wade, the shorthanded Cougars opened the scoring at 13:22 of the first period when Dom Kolbeins beat Jordan Spandli with a backhander during a partial breakaway.
The score remained 1-0 in favour of the home side until Cory Hatcher tied the game 3:30 into the middle frame. From below the goal line, Tyler Carpendale backhanded the puck out front to Hatcher who one-timed the pass past Ciurro.
After the two teams exchanged scoring chances after scoring chances, James Scott broke the deadlock with 38.8 seconds remaining when his floater from the blue line deflected off the stick of Nicholas Polomark for an own goal.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
There would be no scoring until the 12:09 mark of the third period. Hohl, on the power play, had his pass bounce off Spandli to give Victoria a commanding 3-1 lead.
Cam Coutre had all but three seconds remaining in his hooking penalty.
Late in the game, Wolves’ head coach Jackson Penney pulled Spandli for an extra attacker. The move proved futile as Hohl finished off a chippy game with an empty net goal from the neutral zone.
Spandli stopped 43 shots.
The Cougars went 1-for-7 with the man advantage; meanwhile, Westshore finished 0-for-4.
Prior to the game, VIJHL president Barb Byrne awarded the Andy Hebenton Trophy (best overall record during the regular season) and the Grant Peart Memorial Trophy (least amount of penalty minutes during the regular season) to Victoria.
Avery Hill of the Cougars and Joe Gage of Westshore was also recognized for making the VIJHL First All-Star Team.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL: Cody Shepheard scored at 4:26 of overtime to lift the Comox Valley Glacier Kings to a 3-2 win over the Nanaimo Buccaneers in front of 335 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, February 24 versus the Westshore Wolves. Game time at The Q Centre, located at 1767 Old Island Highway, is 6:30 p.m.
BAYVIEW PLACE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st star, Grayden Hohl (Goals: 2, Assists: 2)
2nd star, Jordan Spandli (Saves: 43, Save Percentage: .935)
3rd star, Anthony Ciurro (Saves: 28, Save Percentage: .966)