Isles brace for playoff series with Cougars

The Kerry Park Islanders haven’t beaten the Victoria Cougars since March 8, 2012.

The Kerry Park Islanders haven’t beaten the Victoria Cougars since March 8, 2012, consistently struggling against the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League powerhouse in the last four seasons.

That last win over Victoria came in the playoffs, and with the Isles set to open the first round of the VIJHL playoffs against the Cougars, the time is ripe to end that streak.

“The playoffs are a new season, so we’ll see,” said Islanders owner Mark Osmond, who bought the team in late 2012. “Win or lose, it will be an exciting series.”

The series will begin Thursday at Archie Browning Arena. The teams will play at Kerry Park on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., then return to Esquimalt on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Game four is set for next Tuesday, back at Kerry Park, at 7:30 p.m. If more games are necessary, they will be played on March 3, 5 and 6, continuing to alternate locations between Archie Browning and Kerry Park.

The Isles were shooting all season for second place in the South Division, which would mean both avoiding a first-round matchup with the Cougars and home-ice advantage in the first round. They sat second for much of the season, but slipped in the standings over the last few weeks.

“We had good positioning, but it wasn’t to be, I guess,” Osmond said.

Osmond and head coach Aaron Spotts are doing their best to rally the troops for what will be a daunting series, but one that isn’t completely out of reach.

“We keep telling the boys, ‘They’re just young men like you,’” Osmond said. “‘They’re not superheroes just because they’re wearing a Cougars shirt.’”

An arena packed with fans will go a long way to helping the Isles overcome the Cougars, Osmond pointed out.

“We’ll try and win,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get the crowd behind us.”

The Isles’ last two regular-season games included a 9-2 loss to the Cougars last Thursday. The Isles were playing with a short bench due to injuries and had two defensemen kicked out. By the end of the game, they were down to 11 healthy bodies, but it wasn’t a hopeless case.

“At times, when we played five-on-five, you could see we can do something against them,” Osmond said.

David Bittner and Caleb Franklin had the Kerry Park goals. Ty Rennie started in goal and allowed five goals on 16 shots over the first 31 minutes and 45 seconds. Chase Anderson relieved him and allowed four goals on 16 shots.

Still short players but with pride on the line, the Isles managed to win their regular season finale 5-2 over Nanaimo at Kerry Park Arena on Saturday.

“It was nice to win our final game of the year going into the playoffs,” Osmond said.

The Isles got a goal and assist each from Keenan Eddy, Graham Winship and Corey Peterson, with Chris Carpentier and Tait Aptakin also scoring. Anderson stopped 39 of 41 shots for the win.