Cougars, Braves reaching next level

The Island’s top two junior B hockey teams go head to head this week as the Victoria Cougars meet Saanich Braves for two

Comox Valley Glacier King Calvin Hadley and Victoria Cougar Jordan Davie battle for the puck at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt. Cougars won the game 9-3

Comox Valley Glacier King Calvin Hadley and Victoria Cougar Jordan Davie battle for the puck at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt. Cougars won the game 9-3

The Island’s top two junior B hockey teams are going head to head this week as the Victoria Cougars meet the Saanich Braves in a two-game set.

The home-and-home series goes Thursday (Nov. 22), 7 p.m. at Archie Browning Sports Centre and Friday, 6:30 p.m. at Pearkes arena, and is as big a junior B matchup as it gets, not just on the Island but in the province.

“This is a great test for us, a battle, a war,” Braves coach Brad Cook said. “Of course two of our four losses are to the Cougars. We can match them at five-on-five, and have outplayed them even, but you have to stay away from their powerplay.”

In 23 games, the Cougars (22-0-0-1) have picked up every possible point but one, losing in a shootout to the Comox Valley Glacier Kings early in the season. That loss was rectified on Sunday afternoon, when the Cougars torched the Glacier Kings 9-3.

Next to the Cougars’ winning percentage of .978, the Braves’ .800, an unheard of pace in most sports, almost seems sobering.

This week can establish whether the Braves (16-4) are indeed on the same plane as the Cougars, or a shade below, as the winning percentages suggest.

Either way, there’s no denying the two clubs are head and shoulders above the rest of the league, and most of the province. Going into the two-game series the Braves are ranked third in B.C. behind the Delta Ice Hawks (.833) of the mainland’s Pacific International league, but that could change.

In the first meeting of the Braves and Cougars, the Cougars were kept off the powerplay and it was close, 3-2. But in the second meeting Victoria got a couple of bounces, and a 2-2 game in the third period turned into 6-2 with an empty-netter.

“We have to find a way to put them on their heels and force them to make mistakes. They don’t make many. The big thing for us right now is learning how to play better without the puck,” Cook said.

That, and not giving the referees a reason to make a call.

“(The Cougars’) powerplay will kill you, it’s something else.”

There are many similarities between the two inner-city clubs, which are separated by less than a 10-minute drive.

The programs both cross into junior A territory, with players and coaches committed in a way that was unheard of in junior B leagues back when they first strapped on skates.

The Braves top line features Ty Jones and Josh Gray, a pair of 20-year-olds with junior A experience. Jones is courted constantly by BCHL teams, and is surely NCAA bound. He’s also carrying a full course load at Camosun College.

Likewise, the duo of Brody Coulter and Sam Rice, who lead the league in scoring, are affiliates with the Victoria Grizzlies. But they’re not about to give up a good thing with the Cougars.

“At this stage, to go the BCHL as a 20-year-old rookie is a risk, you’re looking at being a role player with much less ice time,” said Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt.

“We moved five players on last year to playing scholarships and Coulter and Rice are among five more likely to find scholarships this year.”

The Cougars recently added 18-year-old defenceman Brandon Egli of the Trail Smoke Eaters. He was on the Peninsula Panthers for their 2011 Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship run.

The Braves also made a big move, landing 18-year-old Nolan Kinney from the Kerry Park Islanders. He’ll make his debut against the Cougars this week.

“Our games (against Saanich) go right down to the final minute, they’re a deep team that’s well coached and they bring out the best of us,” Van Helvoirt said.

Beefing up

The Cougars recently added depth the defensive corps getting 18-year-old Brandon Egli from the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Egli attended Cougars camp as a 14-year-old, played for the South Island Thunderbirds major midget team. He joined the Peninsula Panthers for their 2011 Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship run but asked to leave the Smoke Eaters this year, to return home and link up with the Cougars, which acquired his rights.

“The Cougars’ coaching staff runs not that different from a team such as Trail, it’s an A class organization. Everyone wants to win, it’s a real good group of guys, always happy, like a family in the room,” Egli said.

With two more years of junior eligibility however, Egli is keen on reigniting the interest of NCAA scouts for a Div. I scholarship. He played for the Victoria Grizzlies last week, and is looking for a way back into the BCHL.

The Braves made a key addition this week, picking up 18-year-old Nolan Kinney from the Kerry Park Islanders. Kinney was one of the final cuts from the Cowichan Capitals training camp and is a big, versatile forward with a scoring touch who Cook can move around in the top six.

Going to Kerry Park in the trade is Cody Short, a skilled player out of the Racquet Club who wasn’t benefiting as a fourth-liner, Cook said.

The Braves were looking for a top-six player, as it allows Cook to keep permanently move Andrew White to defence.

“White brings a real calming effect back there, and he has puck moving ability, which will help us in the long term.”

 

Just Posted

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read