By Christian Stewart/ISN
The Saanich Braves can overtake the Kerry Park Islanders for third place in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League south division when they travel to Mill Bay to face the Islanders tomorrow (Jan. 10) at 7:30 p.m.
It’s the Braves only game of the week.
The Braves began 2015 in fine fashion with a pair of back-to-back wins last week, defeating the Peninsula Panthers 1-0 on New Year’s Day at Panorama Recreation Centre and then following that up with a 6-1 thrashing of the Nanaimo Buccaneers last Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.
The wins come after two straight victories prior to the Christmas break and put the Braves in a modest four game win streak heading into the New Year. More importantly, it moves the Braves to within one point of the Kerry Park Islanders for third place in the South Division of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
It took the Braves 20 minutes to shake off the Christmas and New Year’s turkey in Thursday night’s (Jan. 1) affair at Peninsula, as the Braves mustered just five first period shots on Panthers goalie Alex Olson.
Fortunately the Panthers seemed to have the same difficulty. And while the Panthers tossed a few more shots at the net than the Braves did, the two teams went nearly two-and-a-half periods without a goal.
Hunter Atchison scored at 14:47 of the third period, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead. Goaltender Brandon Ward stopped all 32 shots to earn his third shutout of the season and give the Braves the win.
The Braves came out slow again on Friday (Jan.2) against Nanaimo, getting outshot 19-3 by the Bucs in the first period. Thanks to a solid goaltending effort from starter Riley Mathieson, the Braves escaped the first period with a 1-0 lead despite taking just three shots. Nyshan Basra scored the go-ahead goal at 15:33, his 19th of the season.
It was the first of three on the night for Basra, who struck for his second early in the second period when he blocked a Buccaneer shot at his own blue line and skated in on a partial breakaway. He got a lucky bounce as his initial shot bounced off Nanaimo’s goalie Greg Maggio, off a Nanaimo defenceman and into the net at the 2:39 mark, putting the Braves up 2-0.
While the Buccaneers would respond just two minutes later, on a breakaway goal by Carter Turnbull, the momentum didn’t last and at the 7:52 mark, Basra found himself in all alone and completed the hat-trick, putting the Braves up 3-1. Just 15 seconds later Basra factored into another goal, setting up Atchison, who snuck the puck past Maggio on the short-side to make it 4-1. It knocked Maggio out of the game after he surrendered four goals on seven shots.
Centre Ben Meek scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season in the third as the Braves won 6-1.
Basra now has 40 points (21 goals and 19 assists) with 12 points in his last six games, while Atchison has seven points (4G, 3A) in his last six games. Meanwhile the Braves are without the services of captain Dayne Ellison (upper body), Seamus Maguire (lower body), Kyle Schnettler (unknown) and Evan Horvath (unknown), all out with injuries.
Mathieson has settled in nicely after a rough start and allowed just one goal in each of his last two starts.
– Christian J. Stewart is a Saanich-based communications professional and contributing editor and photographer with Independent Sports News.