By Christian J. Stewart/ISN
Despite a pair of losses to the Victoria Cougars and Peninsula Panthers last week, the Saanich Braves had a wealth of positive news to report, first and foremost, that their annual Pink in the Rink fundraiser last Friday night brought in more than $1,167.45, all of which was donated to the B.C. Cancer Foundation Victoria chapter through the Island Breaststrokers paddling team for breast cancer research.
The Pink in the Rink game against the Panthers saw the Braves outfitted in special pink jerseys that were auctioned off during the game and presented to the winners following the final buzzer. Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell was also on hand to perform one of his first ceremonial duties since taking office, dropping the puck to begin the game, along with cancer survivor Kim Lapshinoff, aunt of Braves forward Evan Horvath.
The seventh annual event was a huge success, even if the Panthers did put a damper on things by scoring four third-period goals to take a 5-2 victory over the Braves.
Looking ahead, three Braves players have been selected to participate in the 2015 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League All-Star Game in Comox on Jan. 18, Nyshan Basra, Seamus Maguire and Jack Rachwalski.
Basra is putting together a fine season for the Braves as the leading scorer with 15 goals and 13 assists. He has scored points in 11 of his last 13 games, including a hat-trick against Oceanside on Nov. 26. Maguire, who rejoined the Braves earlier this season from the Junior A Flin Flon Bombers, has six goals and five assists in 14 games. Rachwalski, a high-energy forward in his second full year with the Braves, has five goals and 10 assists in 29 games.
Meanwhile the Braves are in the bittersweet position with a trio of players enjoying success at the BCHL Junior A level this season. In particular, forward Nick Guerra will no longer be with the Braves as he signed on full-time by the Nanaimo Clippers and will finish the season there. Until recently, Guerra was splitting his time between the Braves and Clippers. Guerra totalled 45 points in 37 games with the Braves over the past two seasons, including nine goals and 11 assists in 17 games this year.
Hunter Atchison is hoping he can catch on in the BCHL as he is back from an extended call-up with the Trail Smoke Eaters, where he notched two goals and an assist in nine games with the team. Defenceman Connor Birmingham has seen action in four games this season for the Chilliwack Chiefs so far.
With the two losses last week, a 7-1 defeat at the hand of the Victoria Cougars last Thursday in addition to the Pink in the Rink loss, the Braves record moves to 8-16-0-5, fourth in the South Division.
This week the Braves are away for three road games, beginning tonight (Dec. 10) against the Westshore Wolves, 7 p.m. at The Q Centre. Next is a trip to the always tough “Brindy” on Friday, versus the Campbell River Storm. On Sunday the Braves complete the road trip with a game in Mill Bay against the Kerry Park Islanders, which is a make-up game from a cancellation in early November.
– Christian J. Stewart is a Saanich-based communications professional and contributing editor and photographer with Independent Sports News.