In a good, clean, and fast game it was the Nanaimo Buccaneers who would score first. Dawson Heathcote took a pass from Aidan Sutherland at his own blue line and skated it all the way to the back of the Cougars net. He then found Darian Harris at the top of the slot with a nice pass and Harris fired a wrist shot past Cougars starter Owen Sikkes for a 1-0 Bucs lead. The goal came at 13:12 of the first. After that goal, the Bucs kept pressuring in the Cougars zone but Sikkes stood tall. Late in the period, the Cougars had a few chances and on one, Tyler Vanuden skated around in the Bucs zone and was slashed by Bucs AP Joshua McKenzie. (the only penalty of the period). On the ensuing PP Booker Chacalias and Tyler Vanuden passed the puck back and forth and from the half wall Vanuden passed the puck out to Marshall Brown at the side of the slot. Brown made no mistake and tied the game up. The period would end 1-1.
The second period started off with the Cougars applying lots of pressure with the Bucs having a few of their own. At the 10:23 mark the Bucs Erik Hanus tripped McNulty behind the Bucs net for the first penalty of the second. On the PP it would be Billy Walters, the captain of the Buccaneers, who would chase down a Lucas Patton clear in the Cougars zone and feed Chase Fioretti in the exact same spot that Brown had scored from earlier to put the Bucs up 2-1 with a shorty. Late in the period with Grady Birk in the box for slashing at 17:44 and Dawson Heathcote in for the same penalty at 18:20 the teams were playing 4 on 4. Brendan Rogers drove to the Cougars net and Sikkes had the puck frozen at the post but not covered. Jacob Gosling was able to swoop in and push the puck through for a 3-1 Nanaimo lead at 18:56. Still playing 4 on 4 the Bucs continued to press and Matt Clark stripped the puck at his half boards and charged down the ice. He was joined by Bryce Irwin on a 2 on 1 break. Seamus O’Toole went to the ice to block the pass but Clark went past him before making the perfect pass to Irwin who made no mistake and brought the score to 3-2 Bucs. Birks penalty ended with Clark streaking by the penalty box so that was a PP goal.
The third started off with 3 really good chances for the Bucs with Sikkes making some great saves. Then back down the other end for Blake Wood to flash the leather. Fast-paced action with chances at both ends of the ice until 12:15 of the third. With the Cougars pressing Grady Birk made a quick change sending Tyler Vanuden out. Ryan Okino got a point shot away that Brown poked out of the skates of Hanus with Vanuden right there to pick up the puck and fire it past a frustrated Blake Wood to tie the game. Late in the period near the end of a shift, Mateo Albinati looked towards the bench until Kevan McBean stole the puck on the boards. Mateo turned back into the Bucs zone and McBean fed him in the high slot and he beat Wood blocker side and gave the Cougars the final goal they would need to advance to the final. A bigger goal hasn’t been scored this season. Late in the game the Bucs pulled their goalie but were unable to score, the Cougars win the series in 6 games.
Players of the game were Billy Walters for Nanaimo and Kevan McBean the Cougars
The Cougars will now face their Arch Rivals the Campbell River Storm for the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy for the Playoff Champion. In the past 7 years, the Cougars have won it 4 times and the Storm 3. Both teams will advance to the Provincial Championships the Cyclone Taylor Cup. The Storm are hosting the Tournament in Campbell River April 11th – 14th at the Strathcona Gardens.