Isles respond to coaches’ challenge

After having everything from their fitness to their dedication questioned by their coaching staff, the Kerry Park Islanders responded with two solid efforts last week, including a 5-3 win over the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Sunday.

"We’re still a ways away from [turning the corner], but we’re getting closer," Isles owner Mark Osmond said.

The Isles started off last Wednesday’s game against the Westshore Wolves with what Osmond called a "crappy" first period, and found themselves trailing 3-0 midway through the second. From that point on, the Isles led the way, and out-scored the Wolves 3-1 down the stretch, coming just short of tying the game.

"We liked that they didn’t back down," Osmond said. "Even though we lost, we felt good about the game."

Zack Smith finished with two goals, while Tyson Malloch had one. Leighton Williams made 21 saves in the Kerry Park net.

Against Comox on Sunday, the Isles fell behind 2-0 in the first game, with the second goal coming after defenceman David Bittner took a "selfish" slashing penalty. Malloch got the Isles on the board in the second period, and the team started off the third frame with powerplay goals from Bittner and Smith, followed by a shorthanded marker by Braedan Cross. After the Glacier Kings managed to get within a goal, Bittner fired his second of the game into an empty net.

Cross added three assists to finish the game with four points, while Bittner had three points on the night, and Smith had two.

"It was a good effort," Osmond said. "We’re missing a lot of bodies right now.

The guys who were left battled. It was a good fight back."

Tanner Browne, a new addition to the blueline, also had two assists in his debut for Kerry Park after coming over in a trade that saw forward Cam Nickerson head to the Oceanside Generals.

Including Sunday’s game, the Isles are now in the midst of a tough leg of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League schedule that will see them play seven games in 17 days, including dates with league powers Westshore, Victoria and Campbell River. There’s no reason the Isles have to lose ground, though.

"Campbell River was beaten by Comox last Friday, which goes to show, whoever shows up on the night is going to win," Osmond pointed out.

The Isles will play host to the Saanich Braves this Thursday and to the Victoria Cougars on Saturday. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.