On the South Island, where parity rules, the Victoria Cougars are having a tough time gaining ground on the leaders or putting distance between themselves and other divisional rivals.
A pair of road losses in the past week’s Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League play were sandwiched around a double overtime home win over the Saanich Braves, leaving the Cougars (15-12-0-1) in second spot, three points up on the Braves, three back of the Westshore Wolves in the South Division.
The Cats, who lost 4-3 to Kerry Park in Mill Bay on Sunday – Cordell Boyko scored the winning goal unassisted with 4:36 to go in the third – have a chance for redemption this Thursday (Dec. 14, 7 p.m.), when they host the Islanders at Archie Browning Sports Centre.
Kerry Park (12-13-0-3, tied fourth) appeared well on their way to victory in the latter half of the third period, leading 3-1. But Victoria got a spark at the 12:44 mark when defenceman Alexander Benger bagged his 10th of the season, from Mateo Albinati. Boosted by the fresh hope the Cougars’ Liam Kinshella scored his first goal of the year just 19 seconds later to make it 3-3.
But Boyko scored against the run of the play and the locals weathered storm for the victory.
Matthew Sparrow’s third of the season made it 1-0 for the Cougars 6:04 into the game, but the Islanders’ Tanner Tiel tied it up late in the first period. Despite being outshot 12-8 in the middle frame Kerry Park scored twice, on a shorthanded marker from Will Connors and Tiel’s second of the game late in the period.
Last Thursday in Esquimalt, the Cougars and Braves (13-13-0-2) played an entertaining first period, from which Victoria emerged with a 3-2 lead. The teams then went scoreless for the better part of two periods before Saanich’s James Vince tied it up with 3:24 to go in the third.
It was Albinati who found the net for the winner, 2:38 into the second OT period, converting a pass from Kyle Wade, who had three assists in all. In his breakout season, Albinati now has 12 goals and 11 assists in 28 games.
Darwin Lakoduk, with a pair (16th, 17th), and Rowan Miller (1st) also scored in the win while Patrick Osterman stopped 33 shots in goal.
The Cougars missed an opportunity to inch closer to the Wolves (16-11-1-1) in Colwood last Wednesday, losing 4-1. Victoria has dropped the last two head-to-head matchups and is now 2-3 this season against Westshore. The Cougars last beat the Wolves 5-2 back on Nov. 2.