Braves forward Justin Polischuk hopes for a rebound as Cougars goalie Evan Roch gloves the puck during the Braves 3-1 win at Archie Browning Sports Centre on Nov. 22. The Cougars bounced back to win 2-1 in a shootout on Friday.

Braves serve Cougars first regulation loss of season

The Victoria Cougars' year long streak ended at the hands of the Saanich Braves last week

The Saanich Braves ended the Victoria Cougars’ year long point streak on Thursday (Nov. 22).

The 3-1 win also stopped the Cougars current 16-game winning streak and was the first regulation time loss by the reigning Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League champs dating back to Dec. 3, 2011.

“Saanich outworked us and were hungry to do things we weren’t prepared to do,” said Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt.

The two-game series crossed Tillicum Road Bridge back to Saanich’s George Pearkes Recreation centre for Friday night, where the Cougars struck back with a 2-1 win in a shootout.

“Friday we played a better team game, we were blocking shots, chipped pucks out, and didn’t get frustrated,” Van Helvoirt said.

The two-game set between the league’s first-place Cougars and

second-place Braves was also a possible preview of the 2013 VIJHL final.

Braves captain Ty Jones sniped the game winner on Thursday in the second period and added an empty net goal in the final minute as the Braves won 3-1 at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.

To earn three out of four points against the Cougars (23-1-0-1) is a solid take for the Braves (17-4-0-1).

“It’s huge for our confidence,” Braves coach Cook said. “We’re happy that we’ve performed well. Quite frankly, our first two games (against the Cougars last month) we performed well too, this time we were able to get a result. Obviously (Friday was) disappointing.”

The challenge now for the Braves is to carry on in the same manner when they visit the Peninsula Panthers (15-9-0-2) at Panorama arena on Thursday and host the Campbell River Storm (5-18-0-2) at Pearkes on Friday.

“Our preparation was outstanding from players and staff, no question,” Cook said. “We can’t be that excited about just one team, we need to bring that killer instinct every game so it’s just normal when we get to playoffs.”

Goalie Tanner McGaw was solid for the Braves on Thursday, stopping 33 of 34 shots, especially during a series of Braves penalties in the second period. McGaw was great again on Friday, making 34 saves on 35 shots.

“What I really liked was that (McGaw) didn’t have to stand on his head, nor did (Ty Jones) have to score five points,” Cook said. “We were good all around, and (McGaw) made saves he was supposed to.”

Thursday’s game took a major shift when, with the Cougars up 1-0 on a goal by Dane Feeney, Braves forward Sam Johnson scored shorthanded on a breakaway. Johnson slid the puck through Evan Roch, “a massive” lift to the Braves’ morale. A few minutes later Jones scored at five-on-five to make it 2-1.

Jones was the first to score on Friday, with eight minutes left in the first period. Ben Kinshella tied it 1-1 for the Cougars in the last minute on the rebound of a Brody Coulter shot. Cougars forward Garrett Brandsma scored the only goal of the shootout.

The Cougars visit the Westshore Wolves, 7:30 p.m. tonight at Bear Mountain Arena, and host Kerry Park Islanders, 7 p.m. tomorrow.

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