ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Victoria Cougars overcame a slow start to beat the Oceanside Generals 5-3 in one of two Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League games played on Thursday night.
Akila Sato-Gaudreau’s goal early in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie.
With the win, Victoria improves to 21-15-1-1 on the season and moves two points ahead of the idle Saanich Braves for top spot in the South Island Division.
Saanich does have one game in hand on the Cougars.
Carl Ewert and Sean Patten added two assists for Victoria who also received a 23-save performance from Patrick Ostermann.
Acquired during the off-season, Ostermann takes the lead amongst all VIJHL goaltenders with 16 wins.
Also scoring for the Cougars were Landon Kitchen, Alexander Benger, Matthew Berryman, and Kyle Wade.
Brady Kay (2) and Landon Dziadyk replied for Oceanside who drops to 15-19-1-3.
The Generals opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period. At 7:25, Will Norman fed the puck over to Kay who ripped a wrist shot from the high slot over the right shoulder of Ostermann.
With just over eight minutes remaining in the period, fire alarms around Archie Browning Sports Centre went off. Facilities Management personnel identified that burning popcorn was the cause of the fire alarms.
Play resumed following a nine minute delay.
Oceanside had a goal waived off with 45.7 seconds left in a bizarre opening period after Dziadyk batted in a shot with his glove.
Kitchen tied the game at 3:14 of the middle frame when he took a beautiful pass from Foster Martin and beat Jacob Sweet short side with a one-timer.
Fresh off a three-game stint with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Benger gave Victoria the lead at 10:49 when his wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle eluded Sweet.
A shorthanded goal from Dziadyk with 45.8 seconds remaining in the period knotted the game at two apiece.
It was the second shorthanded goal in as many games and ninth this season allowed by the Cougars.
Victoria got better as the game progressed, scoring two third period goals in a span of 28 seconds while outshooting the Generals 14-8 in the process.
Sato-Gaudreau gave the Cougars the lead for good off a deflection at 2:52. Then at 3:20, Berryman doubled the lead when his backhander slid under Sweet after being left all alone in the slot.
Oceanside cut the lead to 4-3 at 5:21 when Kyle Boshier delivered a long lead pass to Kay who finishes top shelf on the breakaway.
Wade scored into an empty net with 21.1 seconds remaining in regulation to close out the scoring.
The Generals finished 0-for-4 on the power play; meanwhile, Victoria went 0-for-5.
Sweet stopped 24 shots. Boshier chipped in with a pair of helpers.
The Cougars concluded their three-game home stand with two wins and one loss.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Mathieu Jallabert scored shorthanded at 4:20 of overtime to lift the Nanaimo Buccaneers to a 2-1 win over the Campbell River Storm in front of 370 fans at Nanaimo Ice Centre.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, January 19 versus the Oceanside Generals.