Max Mois only scored once in the Saanich Braves 6-4 win over the Victoria Cougars in Game 2 of the South final on Monday night but his play around the ice was noticeably different.
Each player on the Braves top line of Mois, Josh Gray and Cole Golka scored once, as the Braves evened the series at one game apiece on home ice at Pearkes arena.
But it was Mois who won puck battles, out-skated and out-worked the swift moving Cougars defence, and symbolized a different look than the Braves who lost 5-1 in Game 1 on Sunday.
Despite how it looked from the stands, Braves assistant coach Scott Hawthorne didn’t think Mois, Gray and Golka played that much of a different game than Game 1, but agreed there was some improvements.
“They had a fire in them, and were getting the bounces and getting pucks on net, which they didn’t do in Game 1.
“Throughout the lineup our guys were definitely a lot more willing to sacrifice the body and block shots (on Monday). We were able to rise to the challenge, we just needed to do a lot of the little things.”
Game 3 is Thursday night 7 p.m. at Archie Browning.
Game 4 is Friday night, 6:30 p.m. at Pearkes (schedule below).
Now the Braves just have to keep that mentality going ahead, said Mois.
“We outplayed them five-on-five. But we have to continue to key in on their power play. If we can do that we’re good from here on in.”
Game 2 was vastly different from Game 1 on Sunday starting with the Braves scoring the first goal on a Liam Sproule shot. More proof the game’s first goal is of the utmost importance in the playoffs.
The second period started, or rather didn’t, when the refs and linesmen were forced to address the puddles on the Pearkes ice. Perhaps the delay threw the Cougars off, or the officials, as the Braves quickly stretched the lead to 4-0 with power play goals from Golka and Gray and an even strength goal from Nick Guerra.
It was only the halfway point, however, and the when the penalties started to go against the Braves, the Cougars immediately capitalized with power play goals of their own from Brody Coulter and Dane Feeney to make it 4-2.
A minute later, and still only 11 minutes into the second period, the Braves struck back when Mois buried a pass from Gray to make it 5-2.
The Cougars didn’t let up, but the big Braves defence, buoyed by the return of Brandon Parmar, seemed much more adept in using small surface of Pearkes to their advantage.
Victoria sniffed a comeback with a power play to start the third period. But that’s when Parmar poked the puck loose with a diving effort at the Cougars’ blue line. Out of nowhere came Braves penalty kill specialist Sam Johnston who scored a breakaway goal with a backhand through netminder Evan Roch.
It all but sealed the game’s outcome as one could feel a gust of steam emitted from the Cougars’ bench.
Feeney eventually completed the hat trick with two power play goals late in the third period. And Braves goalie Tanner McGaw was forced to make at least a dozen well-positioned stops in the third, on shots he couldn’t have seen coming.
McGaw was the game’s first star with a heavy workload, 48 saves on 52 shots. At the other end Roch stopped 30 of 36.
Helping McGaw, and skewing the Cougars’ shot total, was the Braves dogged effort to block anything and everything they could, especially against the Cougars’ potent power play.
“It took us 25 minutes to wake up and get some urgency into our game,” said Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt.
“A couple bad bounces, couple bad calls and we get off the rails and wasted eight minutes focusing on the wrong things. That’s a very good team over there, they outworked us and deserved to win.
“It’s going to be a very good series with Saanich. Both teams play similar and hard, at this point it’s anybody’s series, you have to come out with the desperation to start the games.”
Cougars vs. Braves South division final
Game 1: Braves 1 Cougars 5
Game 2: Cougars 4 Braves 6
Game 3: Thursday, March 7, at Archie Browning, 7 p.m.
GAME 4: Friday, March 8, at Pearkes, 6:30 p.m.
GAME 5: Sunday, March 10, at Archie Browning 3 p.m.
GAME 6: Wednesday, March 13, at Pearkes, 7:30 p.m.
GAME 7: Thursday, March 14, at Archie Browning, 7 p.m.