Victoria Cougars forward Foster Martin looks for a teammate to pass to in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action in Esquimalt. The third-place Cougars are playing the No. 2 Westshore Wolves in the South Division semifinals. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Victoria Cougars forward Foster Martin looks for a teammate to pass to in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action in Esquimalt. The third-place Cougars are playing the No. 2 Westshore Wolves in the South Division semifinals. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

VIJHL playoffs: Cougars look to pounce on Coutre and the Wolves

Hockey series a rematch from last season’s opening round

The Victoria Cougars have a storied history in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, but all that success goes out the window come playoff time.

Cougars head coach Suneil Karod, whose team missed winning the regular season title for the first time in eight years but has won four of the last seven playoff crowns, knows this well. And he knows every team comes looking to knock them off in the post-season.

This time around it’s the Westshore Wolves who stand ready to challenge the Cougars for the right to advance to the South Division final in the VIJHL playoffs.

The teams open their best-of-seven series at The Q Centre in Colwood on Wednesday (Feb. 21, 7 p.m. start) then head to Esquimalt for game 2 on Thursday night.

Karod said a fast start is crucial.

“We’ve preached all year about having a good start; when we get on teams early we have a better result,” he said. “Especially against those guys, they play a good shutdown game.”

The Cougars and Wolves met in the opening round last year, a “tought-fought series” won 4-2 by the Cougars. “They’re always a tough team to play against,” Karod said.

This year third-place Victoria will have their hands full trying to contain league scoring champion Cameron Coutre (66 points in 43 games), teammate Brandon Tutte (58 in 40 games) and the rest of the Wolves. This is a team that won their final six games of the season to finish second in the South, a point ahead of Victoria.

“There’s a reason he’s the top forward in the league,” Karod said of Coutre, who turns 20 in April. “He’s a junior A player playing in a junior B league. He does have the capability of changing a game by himself.”

Add in offensive defenceman Tomba Huddlestan (49 pts.) and Trevor Bottomley (35 pts.) and it’ll make for a potentially busy time for the Cougars defence and number 1 goaltender Patrick Osterman, who Karod called “our best player all season.”

Victoria’s defence, led by 20 year old Shane Kime, have stepped up of late and come together as a unit, Karod said.

Offensively, the coach is looking for the continued solid play of 19-year-old forward Jaden McNulty, who scored a natural hat trick in the Cougars season finale, a 7-2 win over Comox Valley last Saturday.

“We’ve been leaning on him lately,” Karod said. “He’s kind of taken the reins in the past two or three weeks, pitching in physically and offensively. That takes some of the pressure off (top scorers Kyle) Wade and (Darwin) Lakoduk.”

Marco Albinati, who topped the Cougars with 21 goals this season, has also been a steady presence in the attacking zone, he added.

Games 3 and 4 go Saturday at The Q Centre (7 p.m.) and Sunday back at Archie Browning Sports Centre (3:30 p.m).

editor@vicnews.com

Junior B HockeyVIJHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New programs and services aimed at helping the unhoused find shelter or housing in Victoria, and to take advantage of support services of various kinds, could be funded if a City of Victoria grant application is successful. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria seeks $3M to $4M in grant funds to enhance community services for unhoused population

Various supports, services for unhoused population part of broad-based funding application

A Victoria parks staffer turns compost made from organics collected in the parks. Piles of this steaming, nutrient-rich stuff will be handed out between April 12-18. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Victoria shovels free home-made compost out to gardeners

Ideal for prepping food gardens, the compost, mulch and wood chips will be at city parks for pick up

Victoria Police Department seized a replica firearm during an early morning call to the 100-block of Gorge Road East on April 11. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police seize replica firearm in early Sunday morning call

Officers called to temporary housing facility in 100-block of Gorge Road East

Road improvements in Sooke are nearing completion . (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
Sooke road work nears completion

Projects part of $5.7 million in improvements

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School South Campus Monday morning to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Proposed $1.5-million cut would hit elementary and middle school programs

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Most Read