The first three games of the Kerry Park Islanders’ best-of-seven Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoff series against the Saanich Braves have been something of a roller coaster.
After a power outage delayed the start of the series from last Wednesday to Friday, the Isles lost game one 6-1 in Saanich, came back to win 5-3 in game two at Kerry Park Arena on Saturday night, then were edged 4-3 in game three back in Saanich on Monday night.
The Isles beat the Braves six times in eight regular-season meetings, and are keeping pace with them in the playoffs, but a precarious goaltending situation has made winning difficult.
“I think we’re playing well,” Islanders owner Mark Osmond said after the third game. “In game one, we outshot them. In game two, we kind of dominated them. Even in game three, we weren’t our best, but we were in the game, even when we were down 3-0.”
With No. 1 netminder Rett Rook sidelined with a concussion, the Isles have turned to backup Matt Henwood and affiliate player Liam Tupper to get the job done. Henwood got the start in game one and allowed three goals on 12 shots before Tupper replaced him after the first period. Tupper stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced that night, picked up an assist on an empty-net goal, and earned the start for game two.
Tupper shone in game two, collecting the victory with a 20-save performance. He was back between the pipes to start game three and allowed three goals — not all his fault — in 11 minutes before Henwood came in. Henwood stopped 36 of 37 shots, but was saddled with the loss after his team came back within a goal.
Josiah Nadon scored the Isles’ lone goal last Friday. Caleb Franklin potted a pair on Saturday, while Samson McLean, Jacob Malloch and Ty Smith had singles. Jarrett Malloch scored once on Monday and set up goals by Kayden Peck and Brandon Wilson as the Isles generated all their offence on the powerplay.
A late powerplay on Monday actually gave Kerry Park a good chance to tie the score, but it ended up being nullified with a too-many-men call when the Isles tried to pull Henwood for the extra attacker.
“We had our chances,” Osmond said. “It just wasn’t to be, I guess.”
The win on Saturday was the first playoff victory for the Islanders since 2012, when they won one game in their second-round series loss to the Victoria Cougars after beating the Comox Valley Glacier Kings four games to three in the first round. The Isles have been swept out of the first round every year since, by the Nanaimo Buccaneers in 2013 and the Cougars in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The Isles and Braves were in action at Kerry Park again on Tuesday night after press time. The Isles were hoping for a win to tie the series and guarantee at least a sixth game. The Isles were also hoping to have Rook back between the pipes on Tuesday.
“This will be a long series, I think,” Osmond said. “It will go six or seven, which is good. That’s what it’s all about. It’s been an exciting series.”
Game five will go on Thursday, back at George Pearkes Arena. If a sixth game is necessary, it will be played at Kerry Park on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. A seventh game would be played at Pearkes on Sunday afternoon.