Riley Mathieson’s (in net) save percentage has climbed to .927, an impressive number considering he’s faced the most shots in the league, 981 (numbers as of Jan. 10). Travis Paterson/News Staff

Braves blast Wolves, move into first on run of 9-1-2 in last 12

Saanich Braves have lost once in regulation since Nov. 24

Since a rough and tumble blowup with the Oceanside Generals on Nov. 24 the Saanich Braves (19-14-2) have gone 9-1-2 in its last 11 games.

The latest win, the Braves’ fourth in a row, was a 6-1 blowout of the Westshore Wolves (16-17-1) in the Q Centre on Wednesday. Kyle Mace led the team with a hat trick, with goals from Gavin Grewal, Michael Sproule and Elliot MacIsaac.

SEE: Braves host 50th anniversary celebration

On Friday the Braves pit their four-game win streak against the Campbell River Storm, who carry a four-game win streak of their own, 7:30 p.m. in Campbell River’s Brind’Amour arena.

Prior to the Braves’ recent run the team had 10 wins in 23 games and was slowly sinking to the bottom of the South division.

So what happened?

Maybe the team bonded over that Nov. 24 game, a 7-3 loss to the Generals (14-17-1) that ended with 94 penalty minutes to the Braves (178 PIMs total) and a total of six ejections and six misconducts (that’s what happens when you fight in Junior B now). The Braves also gave up two shorthanded goals in that game.

(All stats in the story are as of Jan. 11. Inset photo of Gavin Grewal.)

Or, maybe it was the addition of a couple former faces. To start December, the Braves re-acquired Victoria boys Ryan Strange and Eliott MacIsaac. Strange is a 17-year-old forward who affiliated with the Braves for five games last year but left town to play for the Campbell River Storm this year. MacIsaac is a 19-year-old defenceman who left the Braves in 2015 and played last season for the Truro Bearcats, winners of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. He debuted in his return with a goal in the Braves’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Victoria Cougars on Dec. 7 and now has nine points in 10 games.

SEE: Coach gives young Braves until December to find their game

Either way, it’s safe to say the Nov. 24 forced the team to take a long look in the mirror. Since then, they’ve only lost once in regulation, 3-2 to the Kerry Park Islanders (the Braves then swept the Islanders in home-and-home date Jan. 5 and 6).

Whatever it is, something spurred the Braves, who are loving life at the rink and are confident they can win against any team in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

“I think the big part of this run is that by December our rookies start figuring themselves out and we’ve figured out how to play as a team,” said coach Sam Waterfield. “There’s an urgency and accountability from the start of every game, and instead of me holding the players accountable they’re holding themselves and each other accountable.”

“You can only use ‘we’re young’ as an excuse for so long,” said Gavin Grewal, third in team scoring with 16 goals and 13 assists.

Right now the team is having fun, and the worries are little, Grewal added.

“In the dressing dressing room there’s a lot of character right now. If someone’s not having the best night, another guy will step up and take that [role] on. Night to night right now, [we go into games with] everyone feeling comfortable, as long as we work hard we will keep it going,”

Overall, the stat line is well balanced for the Braves. Zach Guerra, 17, remains the standout rookie with 16 goals, one of four Braves with 15 or more. Guerra, a Grade 12 student at Spectrum, has played one game as a Nanaimo Clippers affiliate and was impressive scoring a breakaway in the recent VIJHL prospects game.

There are three more Braves between Guerra (24 points) and Dale McCabe’s team-leading 32 points.

“We trust in our teammates, all of our young guys are stepping into bigger roles,” Guerra said.

One stat that has emerged since November is Riley Mathieson’s save percentage. On Wednesday Mathieson made another 34 saves on 35 shots, bumping his save percentage to .928, second in the league. It’s an impressive number considering Mathieson’s faced the most shots in the league, 1,016 which is 793 more shots than the leader, Liam Murphy of the Campbell River Storm (26-6-2).

“Riley’s been unreal for us, he’s been the backbone of the team, kept us in a lot of games,” Guerra said. “We’ve picked up our defensive game to help him, getting in shooting lanes.”

Just Posted

Alcohol and drugs ruled out in serious crash that closed Sooke Rd last week

Two of the three drivers taken to hospital have since been released

Needles found at Goldstream campground in Langford

West Shore RCMP respond to several calls for service associated with homeless campers

Only tent city residents allowed access at Goldstream Park campsites

Local RCMP point to reports of criminal activity and drug use in the area as cause for safety concerns

Paving complete, lines coming to the Malahat this week

$34 million safety project is 95 per cent complete with hope to relieve traffic congestion between Victoria and Nanaimo

Bear makes midnight front porch visit in Campbell River

A black bear paid a Campbell River family a midnight visit last… Continue reading

5 things to do this weekend in and around Greater Victoria

Sooke Apple Fest returns, Saanich lights up with lantern festival and anarchists unite for downtown book fair

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Hospice to B.C. council race candidate dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Tilray Inc sees $10-billion in market cap go up in smoke

Tilray’s share price closed at $123 US on Friday, a decline from its intraday peak of nearly $300 US earlier in the week

Breast density to be included in mammogram results across B.C.

The information is crucial in proactively reducing the risk of breast cancer, doctors say

Canada to boost support for riskier forms of renewable energy: minister

A $30-million contribution to a $117-million tidal project hopes to harness the immense power of the Bay of Fundy

Most Read