By Christian J. Stewart/ISN
The Saanich Braves extended their win streak to five games Saturday night (Jan. 10) with a 4-1 win over the Kerry Park Islanders, a win that vaulted the Braves into third place in the South Division of the VIJHL.
Leading the way for the Braves in the win were Ben Meek, who had a three point night with a goal and two assists, as well as Cameron Kovesdi and Evan Horvath, who each had a goal and an assist. Goaltender Riley Mathieson stopped 27 of 28 shots to get his third win in a row with the Braves.
Also scoring for the Braves Saturday was newcomer Wil Finlay, one of two new faces that have joined the Braves at the Jan. 10 trading deadline.
Finlay finished last season with Comox, facing the Braves in round one of the playoffs. He previously played two seasons ago in Peninsula. Finlay is touted by Head Coach Brad Cook as a “great two-way player with speed, patience with the puck and who has the ability to chip in offensively.”
Also joining the Braves is forward Nick Keane, acquired from the Kerry Park Islanders. Keane, who played for the Islanders in the game against the Braves last Saturday, has 11 goals and 12 assists in 37 games so far this season and can hopefully provide some additional offence for the Braves down the stretch.
That offence could be important, as the Braves have also lost the services of leading scorer Nyshan Basra who had 21 goals and 19 assists in 28 games with the team this season. Basra had requested a move to the Lower Mainland so he could be closer to his family and the Braves accommodated him by moving him to the North Vancouver Wolfpack.
The Braves also learned that forward Nick Guerra, who has been with the Junior A Nanaimo Clippers, will not be returning to the club. Guerra was traded by the Clippers to the Prince George Spruce Kings at the deadline and will remain in the BCHL.
With the departure of Basra, Keane now becomes the Braves’ leading scorer and it is safe to say that the team will need both he and Finlay to produce right out of the gate in order for the team to have continued success. Finlay’s goal Saturday was a good sign in this regard. They will also need to continue getting secondary scoring from the likes of Meek, Horvath, Jack Rachwalski and Hunter Atchison.
They also need to get healthy. Forwards Dayne Ellison and Seamus Maguire were out of the line-up again on Saturday and their veteran leadership could be important down the stretch.
The Braves now have 21 carded players with two cards left. While the roster is now pretty much set, they can affiliate players up until Jan. 15 and can sign free additional free agents up until Feb. 10.
Next up for the Braves are the Peninsula Panthers Friday (Jan. 16) followed by a trip to Comox Saturday (Jan. 17).
The league takes a brief break for the 2015 All-Star game in Comox Sunday, Jan. 18 where the Braves will be represented by Jack Rachwalski, Seamus Maguire and Ben Meek. Meek replaces the previously named Nyshan Basra.
The Braves head to The Q Centre on Wednesday Jan. 21 for a game against Westshore, then to Nanaimo on Thursday Jan. 22 for a match with the Buccaneers. Saanich then returns home on Friday Jan. 23 for a 6:30 pm start with Kerry Park.
– Christian J. Stewart is a Saanich-based communications professional and contributing editor and photographer with Independent Sports News.