Saanich Draws First Blood in First Round of VIJHL Playoffs

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart  - The Saanich Braves used a powerplay goal and a penalty shot goal, both off the stick of Max Mois, to overcome a 2-1 deficit and skate to a 4-2 win over the Westshore Wolves in Game 1 of their VIJHL South Division playoff series on Monday at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

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Saanich's Cole Golka carries the puck during Monday's action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The win could prove a costly one for the Braves however, as their leading scorer and the VIJHL's recently named Top Forward, Ty Jones, went down just 45 seconds into the game with what appeared to be a serious lower-body injury. Jones was escorted off the ice in pain, and while he did return later, the only ice he saw was on the Saanich powerplay, and it was clear he was not skating at 100%.

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Kyle Richter would put the Wolves up 1-0 just 2:44 into Monday night's game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

To add insult to Jones' early injury, the Wolves would jump out to a 1-0 lead just over two minutes later when Kyle Richter would snipe one home past the Brave's Tanner McGaw.

Credit the Braves for not backing down though, as they would respond just 1:19 later when Sam McMullen would knock home a rebound past Wolves starter Matt Chester, tying the game at 1-1.

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Saanich's Nick Guerra, who would get an assist, celebrates Sam McMullen's tying goal in the first period Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The teams would trade chances, but it would be the Wolves who would respond next, when Spencer Preece picked up a loose puck and made a nice move to put one over McGaw's shoulder, giving the Wolves a 2-1 lead at the 11:18 mark of the period.

The score would remain that way to the break, and despite outshooting the Wolves 14-11, the Braves found themselves trailing by one.

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Saanich's Josh Gray carries the puck through centre ice on Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In the second period, the Braves would control the play territorially and this would eventually lead to the Wolves getting into some penalty trouble, with Kayle Ramsay (boarding) and Tyson Young (a 4-minute high sticking penalty) both being sent off at the 7:14 mark, giving the Braves an extended 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity.

They would capitalize on that powerplay when Mois would convert from Jones and Gray at the 8:26 mark, tying the game at 2-2.

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A powerplay from Saanich's Max Moisin the second period would tie the game 2-2 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Despite continuing on the powerplay, the Braves would not score again and the 2-2 tie extended well into a very evenly played third period, although the Wolves would get the better of the scoring opportunities, but find themselves stymied by solid goaltending from the Braves McGaw.

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Saanich's Max Mois let's his former Westshore teamates know about his go-ahead goal scored on a third period penalty shot (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

At the 16:23 mark of the period, the Braves would get their best opportunity to score when Mois broke in all alone, however he was taken down by the Wolves defence and awarded a penalty shot. Mois would make no mistake, snapping a low shot past Chester to put the Braves into their first lead of the game with just 3:37 left to play.

As time wound down, the Wolves would pull the goalie for the extra attacker, but it would be to no avail, as Saanich's Josh McGladery would fire a long shot into the empty net with 57 seconds remaining to secure the win for the Braves.

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Josh McGladery gets mugged by Jordan Groenhyde and Seamus Maguire after scoring an empty-net goal to clinch the 4-2 win Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The win marked the first time in the last 4 meetings that the Braves found a way to defeat the Wolves. They will hope to do so again In Game 2 of the series which goes Wednesday night at 7:30 at Bear Mountain Arena.