Rarely do the Victoria Cougars face a deficit like they did on Sunday when the Nanaimo Buccaneers took a 3-1 lead in the first period at Archie Browning Sports Centre.
The result was a dominating second period effort from the top junior B team in the province, as the Cougars scored four goals in the middle frame, and seven straight in total, to win 7-4.
It was the Cougars’ 40th win of the season (40-1-0-2) as the team now has five games left in the 48-game Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season.
“Recently we’ve had a tough time with slow starts,” said captain Brody Coulter, who picked up four points in the game, bringing him to 113 on the season. “Yes our second period was good (Sunday) but we (also) have to make sure we’re ready in the first period and not playing from behind.”
Despite some “slow starts” the Cougars haven’t showed any weakness as they continue to dominate. Key to their success all season has been the power play. It was the story in the second period against Nanaimo, with three of the four tallies coming with the man advantage.
The Bucs learned not to trade power plays with the Cougars.
Coulter quarterbacks the power play and that’s where he picked up all three of his assists on Sunday. He also scored a shorthanded goal in the second period that tied the game and kept the momentum in the Cougars’ favour.
Last Thursday (Jan. 24) Coulter broke the modern-era VIJHL points record of 104, set in 2003-04 by Jason Jacques of the Campbell River Storm.
Coulter now has 113 points, 37 goals and 76 assists, in 43 games, and is on pace for 126.
The VIJHL website reports the league’s all-time scoring leader as Len Meyer of the 1978-79 Fuller Lake Flyers, with 144. Hold those records where you will, says Cougars governor Gary Boyer. Meyer’s record was set in the South Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, the VIJHL’s predecessor.
Records of the aforementioned SVIJHL are few. There is even less, if any, of the North Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, which closed up shop some time ago.
Parksville is one of the NVIJHL teams to survive and joined the SVIJHL, which became the VIJHL for the 1995-96 season. The birth certificate for the VIJHL is Jan. 26 1996, when it was officially registered as a society. The SVIJHL goes back to the 60s, with the Saanich Braves as the longest standing club. Various incarnations of SVIJHL clubs include the Esquimalt Buccaneers, Victoria Wings, Oak Bay Flyers (Geoff Courtnall’s alma mater), Fuller Lake Fliers and Juan de Fuca Gulls.
Regardless, the achievement is remarkable.
Coulter, 20, was passed up by junior A teams as a 17 year old and, though he plays as a regular call up to the Grizzlies, he is dedicated to the Cougars. His scoring is balanced throughout the league, having been held to zero points in just two games so far, Nanaimo on Sept. 13 and the Saanich Braves on Jan. 4.
“I can’t say enough about (Coulter’s) accomplishment,” said Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt. “As an individual, he deserves it. And he’s even an even more important part of this team as a leader on and off the ice and in the dressing room.”
Fifty-nine of Coulter’s points so far have been earned on the power play, 12 goals and 47 assists.
“The power play is something Coulter has worked hard and continues to,” Van Helvoirt said.
Becoming the most dynamic point man in the league didn’t come without its trials and tribulations, however.
“I’ve had a few blips, tripped on the blue line a couple of times, and fell (skating backwards) on a couple of rushes, so there’s been a few short handed goals against me,” Coulter said.
“It took getting used to backwards skating, which I hadn’t done in forever. I watched a lot of video and have done a lot of practice on the breakout and that first pass.”
The Victoria Cougars (40-1-0-2) host the Peninsula Panthers (21-18-0-3) in one of two Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League games on tap tonight.
Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.
Around the VIJHL: The Braves dropped its fourth loss in a row on Friday, 2-1 to Comox Valley, and have lost seven of the last eight. Tonight (Jan. 31) the Braves are in Nanaimo and tomorrow the Braves host the Campbell River Storm, 6:30 p.m. at Pearkes arena.
PHOTO: Brody Coulter holds the with Andy Hebenton Trophy for the top regular season team in 2012. This year Coulter will raise it once again, and the Doug Morton Trophy for the scoring title, which was shared last year by
Coulter’s linemate, Steve Axford, and Braves captain Ty Jones.