With three very different wins over very different opponents, the Cowichan Rats are off to a 3-0 start in the Vancouver Island Lacrosse League season.
The Rats opened the season in Esquimalt last Thursday with a 9-4 win over the Victoria Blazers, who they defeated for the league championship in 2019, the last time the VILL had a season. The teams were tied at 2-2 after the first period, but the Rats pulled away with four unanswered goals in the second.
Rookies Jeremy Achtzner and Brayden Zunti led the way with two goals apiece, and Tyson Black scored once and added two assists. Aidan Miller, Clayton Vickers and Michael Shepherd also scored, and Gordon Robb, Conor Manahan and Pete Vanden Dungen had single assists. Goalie Ryan Brabander stopped 22 of 26 shots in his Rats debut.
Saturday’s home opener at the Cowichan Arena saw the Rats win 15-3 over a depleted WSANEC Arrows team. Up 8-1 after the first period, Cowichan loaned three players to the Arrows to make it more even, but the damage was already done.
Black led the way with five goals and three assists, and Zunti added a goal and three helpers. Captain Dylan Dewarle had a hat trick and one assist in his season debut, while Kane Punnett scored twice and added two assists, Achtzner, Shepherd and Josh Hayton each had a goal and two helpers, and Vickers had a goal and one assist. Wes Morris chipped in with three assists, and Ryan King and Shayne Alexander had one apiece.
The Rats returned to Esquimalt on Tuesday where they battled to an 8-6 victory over the young, fast Saanich Express, one of two expansion teams in the VILL this year. The score was tied 3-3 after one period, 4-4 after two, and 6-6 late in the third before Cowichan got a couple of late goals and locked it down with tight defence.
Vickers scored two goals and set up another, and Zunti and Vanden Dungen both scored twice. Dewarle added a goal and an assist, Black scored once, Hayton had three helpers, and Shepherd had two. Brabander stopped 23 of 29 shots.
The Rats will be back at the Big Stick this Saturday to face the Westshore Aces at 7:30 p.m.