The Victoria Cougars will face the Saanich Braves on Thursday, but on Sunday, a combined 11 players from both teams will lace up the skates for the South division team at the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League All-Star Classic.
Puck drop is Thursday night between the league’s first-place Cougars (33-1-2-) and second-place Braves (25-7-2), 7 p.m. at the Archie Browning Sports Centre. The Prospects Game, Skills competition and All-Star Classic are at 1:30, 3:30 and 4:40 p.m. respectively at Oceanside Place in Parksville on Sunday.
The Cougars are coming off a three-in-three weekend in which they defeated the Westshore Wolves 9-2 and Saanich Braves 2-1 on Thursday and Friday, then lost in a shootout to the Nanaimo Buccaneers 4-3 in Nanaimo on Saturday.
Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt abstained from commenting about the 236 penalty minutes accrued between the Wolves (20-17-1) and Cougars on Thursday, except to say that he was proud how his team held its ground and kept its cool. The Cougars earned 72 penalty minutes to the Wolves’ 142, and scored five powerplay goals.
The Cougars followed it up on Friday and Saturday with a pair of highly skilled games, barely managing to beat the Braves at Pearkes arena on Friday. It was the Braves’ first game with sniper Max Mois back in the lineup since Dec. 14.
“Both teams are still missing key parts but somewhat healthy, and I thought it was how games should be in this league. We really enjoy playing games like that,” Van Helvoirt said.
Braves keeper Tanner McGaw was the busier of the dueling goaltenders, making 31 saves on 33 shots, to Evan Roch’s 20 saves on 21 shots.
“Both stood on their head and it came down to the last couple of minutes,” Van Helvoirt said.
On Saturday, the Buccaneers became the third team this season to deny the Cougars two points, scoring twice in the third period to tie it 3-3. The Bucs won in the shootout on the strength of goalie Riley Medves, who stopped all four Cougars shooters.
“I was somewhat surprised how we reacted in such a close game,” Van Helvoirt said. “It was the last of a three-in-three, so it was a good test, but it seemed that our conditioning was off in the third game.”
Tomorrow night the Braves will be looking for revenge as they meet the Cougars for the seventh of eight meetings this season.
The Cougars visit the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Friday night, while the Braves host the Westshore Wolves.
VIJHL name All-Star squads
Former teammates Travis Oickle and Max Mois will once again suit up on the same team when the two South Division all-stars attend the 2013 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League All-Star Classic in Parksville on Jan. 13.
Mois was traded last month from the Westshore Wolves to the Saanich Braves, and will represent the latter in the All-Star Classic. Oickle, who holds the distinction of having played for the now-defunct former Westshore Stingers, will represent the expansion Wolves.
The South Division rosters were recently announced for both the All-Star game and Prospects games.
Leading the list on the South’s All-Star team is the first-place Victoria Cougars with six players: forwards Brody Coulter, Sam Rice and Mark Walton, defencemen Graham Zagrodney and Jacob Stolz, and goalie Evan Roch. Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt will lead the bench.
The Saanich Braves are second with five players, forwards Mois, Ty Jones and Josh Gray, defenceman Garett Kemmler and goalie Tanner McGaw.
Joining Oickle from the Wolves is forward Josh Bloomenthal and defenceman Chris McDonald. Peninsula Panthers players going are forwards Cole Golka and Josh Adkins, and defenceman Cody Breitenstein. Former Panthers star Kyle Peterson leads the trio of Kerry Park Islanders with F Alex Milligan and D Colton Burt.
Full rosters at VIJHL.com.