Islanders floundering as playoffs get closer

The Kerry Park Islanders slipped to fourth place in the South Division standings thanks to a pair of losses last weekend.

With the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs just around the corner, the Kerry Park Islanders slipped to fourth place in the South Division standings thanks to a pair of losses last weekend.

Most agonizing to the Kerry Park brass was a 6-4 loss to the last-place Saanich Braves last Friday night in which the Isles let a 4-1 first-period lead slip away.

“To be honest, we had about 15 really bad minutes and they got the momentum and we fell behind,” head coach Aaron Spotts said. “I think it was a combination of things for us. I don’t think our players are used to playing with a 4-1 lead. Instead of sticking with the system, I think the guys thought it was a good time to get going with some offence. We made some bad turnovers and they capitalized on them.”

Saanich opened the scoring two and a half minutes into the first period, but Kerry Park defenceman Chris Carpentier scored his second of the season just 24 seconds later, kicking off a four-goal barrage by the Islanders with goals by Ryan Paisley, Corey Peterson and Graham Winship. All four Kerry Park goal-scorers are 20-year-olds in their last season of eligibility.

Former Islander Nick Kean got his team going and tied the score with a natural hat trick in the second period, completing the trifecta with a shorthanded marker. It was 5-4 for the Braves after 40 minutes, and an empty-netter at 19:59 of the third sealed it up.

Kerry Park starter Chase Anderson played 54 minutes and 55 seconds of the game and allowed five goals on 30 shots. Ty Rennie got in for the other five minutes and five seconds, and stopped all six shots that he faced.

Saturday night’s 6-1 loss to the Victoria Cougars may have been less frustrating to the Islanders’ braintrust, if only because the Cougars are a perennial power in the VIJHL that the Isles haven’t beaten in a regular season game since October 2011, when none of the current players, coaches or owners were with the team.

“Obviously, it’s been a long time,” Spotts said. “A big part of it is our mental toughness against them. Obviously, they’re a very good team, but it’s also a lack of discipline against them. They seem to bring a good game to us, but they have a way of getting under our skin.”

Defenceman Kyle Bell scored Kerry Park’s lone goal on the powerplay in his first VIJHL game after being called up from Shawnigan Lake School. The Cougars scored three times in each of the first and second periods before the teams played a scoreless third. Rennie faced 47 shots on the night and turned aside 41.

If the standings stay the way they are, the Isles will see a lot more of the Cougars in a first-round playoff match. They currently sit four points back of the Peninsula Panthers and two behind the Westshore Wolves, and will have to win their last two games of the season to have any hope of finishing second. It won’t help matters that they will visit the Cougars this Thursday. On Saturday, the Isles play host to the Nanaimo Buccaneers.

“Obviously, they’re two must-wins,” Spotts said. “We can’t worry about who we’re playing and worry more about how we’re playing. I’m confident in our guys that we can do it.”