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

Just Posted

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Greater Victoria high school students head to Honduran jungles, reefs for science

Students from St. Andrew’s High School spent the summer surveying the tropics

PHOTOS: Vancouver Canucks gear up for 50th season with Training Camp in Victoria

‘We have some great guys coming in,’ said player Elias Pettersson

Pacific FC to face off against FC Edmonton Saturday at Westhills Stadium

Visit the Goldstream News Gazette’s tent for your chance to win a prize pack

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Nanaimo company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

‘A real shame’: B.C. MLA says factors behind Tolko mill closing should have been caught

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said the industry is in bad shape across the province

VIDEO: Seniors at B.C. assisted living facility shocked by Oct. 1 eviction notice

Building owners terminate lease for McGuire Lake Congregate Living in Salmon Arm

‘How does it even happen?’: Bear locks itself inside vehicle in Port Moody

It was apparent the suspect had gained entry with his ‘bear’ hands

Most Read