South prevail in chippy VIJHL All-Star game

VIJHL All-Star game in Saanich a chippy, serious affair as South prevail 7-6 in a 20 round shootout

Campbell River Storm player Brett Willsie

A week prior to Sunday’s All-Star Classic at Pearkes arena, rookie Liam Sproule of the Saanich Braves wasn’t even scheduled to play.

Sproule sparked a chippy afternoon when the 17-year-old defenceman fought Dixon Wing of Campbell River in the four-on-four prospects game.

Stick work, body checks and various other pleasantries were shared in both games, particularly in the day’s main event, the All-Star Classic.

“These guys play each other four, five, six times a year, and they don’t like to lose,” said Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt, who coached the South to a 7-6 shootout victory.

“I thought it was well played, fairly clean and competitive. Some guys aren’t there because they score goals. They bring other intangibles and they’re trying to showcase their skills.”

As for Sproule, he added an assist and was the South’s MVP of the prospect game, though the North prevailed 6-4. Oceanside’s Taylor Grabowski was MVP for the North.

Sproule was a late addition in place of fellow Braves defenceman Brandon Parmar, who was promoted to Jaden Schmeisser’s spot. The latter is now committed full time to the Victoria Grizzlies.

Sproule’s fight was applauded by the blood thirsty guest coach of the South Team, Robin Farrell of Kool FM. Farrell was helped by Grizzlies general manager and coach Vic Gervais, while CTV Two’s Mira Laurence and Nanaimo Clippers coach Mike Vandekamp ran the North bench.

“I thought Saanich did an excellent job hosting the (weekend),” Van Helvoirt said.

“(The Braves) represented the league and brought the event one step further with the guest coaches and speakers, including Geoff Courtnall.”

All-star goals

Scoring for the North in the All-star game were Alex Benjestorf (Campbell River), Luciano Sommerville (Oceanside), Alex Gruppe (Campbell River), Connor Enright (Oceanside), Jackson Garett (Comox), Travis Briggs (Oceanside).

The South responded with goals from Cole Thomson (Kerry Park), Sam Rice (Cougars), captain  Steve Axford (Victoria), Trevor Chown (Victoria), Sam Johnston (Saanich) and Tyler Jones (Saanich).

Gruppe and Thomson took the All-Star MVP awards.

Saanich shootout

When the All-Star game went to a shootout tied 6-6, Van Helvoirt made the classy decision to start Braves captain Tyler Jones as the first shooter, followed by Braves rookie Jack Palmer.

The shootout was scheduled at 10 rounds.

Jones scored on a low wrist shot and Palmer would have earned a massive ovation if the packed home crowd at Pearkes knew just how deft his goal was. Palmer made a series of dekes and seemed to have run out of options in tight against the North’s goalie Nick Babich (Campbell River). But, Palmer patiently back handed the puck into an opening on the far post, hidden from the crowd’s view.

Peninsula’s Dane Gibson also scored in the shootout as the South won 4-1.

Goalies Tanner McGaw (Braves) and Evan Roch (Cougars) split the shootout duties.

Skills fastest skater

A pair of Peninsula Panthers, Trevor Yee and Dane Gibson, dominated the fastest skater competition, with Yee winning the final head-to-head race.