With five wins in their first 13 games, the Saanich Braves aren’t far off the mark of a strong season in the Island junior B hockey league.
The Braves play next on Wednesday night (Oct. 18), hosting the Westshore Wolves at Pearkes arena, 7:30 p.m.
Strap a few wins together, especially one against South division leading Westshore Wolves, and the team is back in contention.
After all, coach Sam Waterfield expected a learning curve in the first part of the season. So with a win on Friday over their longstanding rivals the Victoria Cougars 5-3 on Friday, their is hope for the Braves.
“We’re a quarter of the way through year and by this point the rookies are getting into the game,” Waterfield said. “They’re not rookies anymore, they have to play the way their capable of, and I feel like they’re figuring out it.”
It was the first-year players Oliver Hahn, Zack Guerra and James Vince who helped the Braves rescue a win over the Cougars on Friday.
In that game, which was a Soap for Hope fundraiser, the Braves took a 2-1 lead into the second on goals by Zach Guerra and Oliver Hahn.
By Waterfield’s own admission, the Braves got “running around” in the second, which resulted in the Cougars tying it 2-2 (Zefan Pighin scored their first, Alexander Benger their second).
Despite going down 3-2 on a streak of penalties, the Braves survived and provided a late surge of their own, scoring three in the final four minutes of the game from Vince, Grewal and Hahn, the latter scoring an empty netter for his second of the game.
Leading scorer Dylan McCabe had left the game for fighting but it was the first-year players again who were able to step up and take control 5-on-5, Waterfield said.
“Our penalty kill was strong, we were able to claw our way out with three in the last four minutes,” Waterfield said.
The Cougars are now 5-4 in nine games, and find themselves looking up in the standings having played considerably less games played than first-place Westshore (7-4-1) and second-place Kerry Park Islanders (6-5-1).
One night before beating the Cougars the Braves dropped a close 2-1 loss to the Westshore Wolves at The Q Centre in Colwood on Thursday.
Braves goalie Riley Mathieson was great, stopping 39 of 41 shots. Michael Sproule was the only Brave to beat Wolves goalie Jordan Spandli who made 29 of 30 saves.
Looking ahead to Wednesday against the Wolves, the Braves need to bring the same game they played Friday, but with less penalties, Waterfield said. In both previous meetings this season the Wolves have beat the Braves by one goal.
“If we do it’ll be another close game against the wolves, we owe them one.”