Story by Christian J. Stewart - It has been a January to forget for the Saanich Junior Braves Hockey Club, as a pair of losses this past weekend, 4-2 to the Westshore Wolves on Friday and 2-1 to the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Saturday, ran their losing streak to four, and marked their 8th loss in 10 games played thus far in the first month of the new year.
With one game remaining in January, on Thursday the 31st in Nanaimo, and just six games remaining overall in the regular season schedule, the Braves will look to regroup quickly, so that they can maintain their second place position in the South, which is now a tenuous one as the surging Wolves, winners of 6 of their last 7 games, are now just 4 points back of the Braves, although the Braves do have two games in hand.
On Friday night against Westshore at home, things started well for the Braves as Ty Jones scored just 3:51 into the game, but ultimately it would be penalty trouble that cost the Braves the game, as the Wolves would score all 4 of their goals on the powerplay to take the win.
Clay Carson would tie things up at 13:44 of the first period and while Nick Guerra's powerplay goal would put the Braves back in front in the second period, the Wolves would score three more in the third - from Braedon Behan, Brett Lervold and Kyle Richter (into an empty net) - to put the game away.
Former Brave Matt Chester would get the win for the Wolves, stopping 33 of 35 shots, while Tanner McGaw would take the loss.
In Comox on Saturday, the Braves would give the start to Bowman Rutledge and while he was solid, making 28 of 30 saves, his counterpart for the Glacier Kings, Bryce DiRocco, was one better, stopping 32 of 33 shots in the 2-1 Glacier King win.
The Glacier Kings would open the scoring on a goal from Steven Garcia in the second period, but the Braves would tie things up at 4:14 of the third when Seamus Maguire notched his 7th of the year.
Just when things looked to be going to overtime, lady-luck would bite the Braves in the behind once again in the last minute, as former Brave Andrew White would score with 43 seconds remaining to give Comox the win.
While it is looking like the Braves will play Westshore in the first round of the playoffs, the Braves do want to stay in second in the South, so that they can maintain home ice advantage in that first round series.
After their game with Nanaimo on Friday the 31st, the Braves finish out the VIJHL schedule with games against Campbell River, Kerry Park, Westshore, Comox and Victoria.
The Wolves, who are looking to stay ahead of fourth place Peninsula who with 45 points are just six back of the Wolves, will finish with games against Kerry Park, Saanich, Nanaimo and Peninsula.
The Panthers, who appear destined to face the powerful Victoria Cougars in round one, do have an outside chance to overtake the Wolves, have 7 games remaining, although three of those are against Victoria, while the others are against Oceanside, Westshore and Kerry Park.