The Westshore Wolves have won the latest round in the battle for the South Island against the Victoria Cougars.
The Wolves (11-3-1) snapped a tight 1-1 game with third-period goals by Spencer Preece and Brett Lervold and skated to a 3-1 victory in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League play at The Q Centre Wednesday night. The win allowed the locals to open a four-point bulge between themselves and the second-place Cougars (9-2-1) in the South Division standings.
Westshore outplayed the visitors in the final half of the last period, breaking up passes and killing off a couple of man-short situations. With winger Corey Peterson in the box late in the game and his team leading 2-1, the Wolves thwarted a concerted Cougars attack and nearly scored shorthanded.
“We buckled down and just kind of stuck with it,” Wolves’ head coach Brian Passmore said of the late effort. “That was the most complete game we’ve played. We didn’t start the way we wanted to, but definitely the finish was what got us the win.”
Wolves goalie Riley Welyk was stellar in net down the stretch, turning aside 18 Cougars’ shots in the final frame alone and 32 overall. In front of him, the Wolves managed just four third-period shots on Victoria goalie Grant Payne, but made the most of them.
“We’ve got to work on our power play, some things, our (penalty kill) was great and our goalie won us that game,” Passmore said. “They’ve got some really good players and when you give them some time to make a play, they’re going to make plays. We didn’t give them much room tonight, so it was good.”
Preece scored his fourth of the season and the eventual winner 13:51 into the third. He converted a pass in the slot from Cory Hatcher after new acquisition Jordan Law, forechecking hard, stole the puck off a Cougar defender in the corner and got it to Hatcher.
“It was a big win for us, it was probably our biggest game of the season,” Preece said. “They’re a good team. It was a good measuring stick and it’s nice to know that we can beat them.”
While the Wolves solidified their hold on first place, Preece said, the team is looking further down the road.
“(Beating Victoria is) nice, but it doesn’t really matter right now. We’re more worried about the playoffs. We know if we want to get to the finals we’re going to have to get through them. Right now we just want to keep getting better, cause we know they’re going to keep getting better. We just want to be able to beat them at the end of the year.”
Westshore pulled off the win without league-leading scorer Kyle Richter and power forward Kayle Ramsay, who is currently sitting out a league suspension.
Robert Zadra gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead just 1:15 into the game, but Connor Krupa tied it up at the 10:42 mark. The Wolves outshot the Cougars 15-4 in the second period, with Payne coming up with some big saves of his own.
The Wolves head up Island to Courtenay for a Saturday game against Comox Valley, then return home to host the Glacier Kings next Tuesday at The Q Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.