Islanders split, but get closer than ever to finally beating Victoria

“All signs are there that we’re going to beat Victoria. We’re encouraged. I thought we played a good game.”

The Kerry Park Islanders didn’t get their long-awaited win over the Victoria Cougars as they opened the 2015/16 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season last Thursday, but the team’s performance had owner Mark Osmond feeling optimistic that it will happen soon.

“All the signs are there that we’re going to beat them,” he said. “We’re encouraged. I thought we really played a good game.”

Famously, the Isles haven’t beaten the Cougars since Osmond bought the team in 2012. A win over Victoria has become his Great White Whale.

The Isles lost the game at Archie Browning Arena 6-3, but got off to an excellent start, leading 1-0 at the first intermission thanks to a goal by veteran Zack Smith.

“We dominated the first period of that game,” Osmond said. “We were thinking, ‘this looks good.'”

They didn’t come out as dominant in the second period as the Cougars scored three straight. Trailing 3-1, the Isles didn’t throw in the towel, which was a sign of a new attitude.

“In the last few years, that would have been game over,” Osmond said.

The team came back and got goals from Patrick Poets and Ryan Paisley to trail 4-3 at the end of the second. The Cougars added two more powerplay goals in the third to get the win. Keenan Eddy had two assists in the losing cause, while goalie Ty Rennie made 30 saves on 36 shots.

One big difference came on special teams, where the Cougars finished 3-for-7 on the powerplay, while the Isles were 1-for-7.

“Losing Tanner Browne to a misconduct in the second didn’t help us,” Osmond pointed out. “He’s our powerplay quarterback.”

The Isles had a better result on Saturday as they won their home opener 3-1 over the Peninsula Panthers, but Osmond felt the performance wasn’t as good as the day before.

“I thought we played better as a team on Thursday,” he said. “But we got the win, and that’s what counts.”

Abe Lamontagne gave Kerry Park a 1-0 lead in the first period, but the Panthers tied it up with 36 seconds left in the second. Connor Bissett and Zack Smith scored unanswered goals in the third period to give the Isles the win. Rennie was back between the pipes and stopped 24 of 25 shots.

The Islanders will play the same teams this coming weekend, only with the home and away statuses reversed. They visit the Panthers Friday, then host the Cougars Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Also last weekend, the team participated in a spin cycle relay fundraiser at Thrifty Foods in Mill Bay, collecting about $1,600 that will go to the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock on behalf of Rob Webb, an RCMP officer who is riding on the Tour de Rock this year and who is also an assistant coach with the Isles.

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