Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN) - Ty Jones began where he left off last season, scoring 3 goals and an assist to lead the Saanich Braves to a 6-2 win over the Kerry Park Islanders in the Braves VIJHL opener Friday night at Pearkes Arena.
The evening's festivities were kicked off by a tailgate party that featured dancing and drumming from the First Nation Ahousaht Dance and Drumming Group, a moving and motivational display that set the mood for the fans entering the arena.
After a series of on-ice opening ceremonies that included the donation of a $1000 cheque to Kevin Nunn for Cops for Cancer, a presentation of the 2011-2012 VIJHL MVP trophy to Captain Ty Jones, and a ceremonial puck drop by Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, the game got underway and it was the Islanders who struck first, capitalizing on some early Braves mistakes that allowed Brett Vestby to sneak a shot past Braves starter Tanner McGaw just 3:28 into the period.
The Braves though would dominate the period, peppering 16 shots at Kerry Park starting goaltender Matt Zenzola who stood tall - literally as he is about 6'4" in height - denying a number of early chances before Josh McGladery would crack his armour, potting one by him at the 13:21 mark to tie the score.
McGladery would get the first goal of 2012-2013.
That score would hold up until early in the second when the Braves took the lead for good, as Jones would notch his first of the evening at the 4:37 mark.
Islander goalie Matt Zenzola would foil the Braves many times in the first period.
After another 10 minutes of relatively so-so hockey, things would explode in the latter half of the second period, as the teams would combine for four goals in the last five minutes of the period. The Braves would strike first, taking a 3-1 lead on Jones' second of the night at the 14:45 mark.
Jones and Gray would have good chemistry in Game 1
They would up that lead to 4-1 just 30 seconds later, as Jones and newcomer Josh Gray broke in on a two on none, with Gray making a nice finishing pass to Jones for his natural hat-trick.
McBride would have a goal and 2 assists Friday
The Islanders would manage to respond slightly when Kyle Peterson would beat McGaw on a breakaway at the 16:05 mark, but the Braves would return the favour, as Shawn McBride, who earlier assisted on the latter two Jones goals, would break in alone two minutes later and beat Zenzola with a nice shot to put the Braves up 5-2.
It was an interesting night for referee Jake Poolann who was busy keeping order in the third period.
That would spell the end of the night for Zenzola, who although he played well and could not really be faulted for any of the Brave goals, was pulled in favour of Jackson Jane.
The third period was largely uneventful on the scoreboard, as both teams managed just 6 shots on goal, with Gray notching a power play marker at the 4:48 mark to put the Braves up 6-2, but it was an active one in the penalty box, as the period was marred by a couple of fights, a couple of 5 minute major penalties and a match penalty to Kerry Park's Connor Krupa for a slash to the chin of the Brave's Jordan Groenhyde.
The teams would settle down to play out the period with no further scoring and the Braves had the 6-2 opening night win.
Head coach Brad Cook was pleased with the effort, "It was a good win. I liked our composure as the game went on. We made some bad decisions and got exposed a bit in the first five minutes, but then started to show some composure with the puck."
"It was also nice to see some good early chemistry with the line of Jones, Josh Gray and McBride," added Cook. "We expect Jonsey to be our leader and it was exactly as we planned. Shawn also played very well and showed why the Jr. A Grizzlies were looking at him right to the last minute."
Speaking of the Jones, McBride and Gray line, they accounted for 5 goals and 5 assists on the evening and accordingly were all part of the 3 Star selection with Jones first, McBride second and gray third. Also of note tonight was newcomer Garrett Kemmler, who quietly added a pair of assists from his defensive slot.
Next up for the Braves are the Peninsula Panthers who visit Pearkes Arena on Wednesday night September 12th. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm.