The Saanich Braves played a strong game but dropped a 3-1 decison to the Nanaimo Buccaneers in VIJHL action Thursday night at the Nanaimo Ice Centre in Nanaimo.
The Braves started former Buccaneer Brandon Ward in net and while he played well against his former teammates, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced and earning third star honours, a stickhandling blunder on Nanaimo's second and ultimately game-winning goal proved to be huge. Ward came out to the top of the face off circle to play a second period dump in, and somehow mishandled the puck, giving it to Nanaimo's Chad Bell who fired a shot into the empty net from the wing, putting the Bucs up 2-0 at the time.
The Bucs, who scored in the first on a shot from Nolan Richardson, would continue to pressure in the third, outshooting the Braves 11-5, but Ward would hold strong and when Nyshan Basra finally beat Nanaimo starter Greg Maggio with 4:04 to go, it appeared the Braves might find a way to tie the game and at least force overtime.
It was not to be however, as with the goalie Ward pulled, Nanaimo's Will McNamara would hit the empty net with 20 seconds to play to give the Bucs the 3-1 win.
The Bucs outshot the Braves 32-22 on the night. Saanich was 0 for 3 on the powerplay. Nanaimo was 0 for 1. With the win the Bucs improve to 6-1-0-1 and they jump into first place in the North. The Braves fall to 0-5-0-1 and remain winless for the year.
The Braves are right back at it on Friday night as they host the Comox Valley Glacier Kings at Pearkes Arena in Saanich. Puck drop is 6:30 pm.