The Kerry Park Islanders earned a pair of wins over the Saanich Braves over the last week, moving back into third place in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s South Division and making the Braves their likely opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
“Beating Saanich twice in two games was good,” Islanders owner Mark Osmond said. “They’re not going to want to play us in the playoffs.”
Both the Isles and Westshore Wolves have 40 points through 44 games, although the Isles currently hold the edge for third place with 19 wins to the Wolves’ 18. The third-place team will face the Braves, while the fourth-place team will meet the league-leading Victoria Cougars.
In Saanich on Friday, the Isles allowed an early goal to VIJHL scoring leader Nick Guerra, but took the lead in the second period when Jarrett Malloch scored an even-strength goal, then set up Garnett Roberts’s powerplay marker. The Braves tied the score in the third, but Kayden Peck struck at 4:14 of overtime to give his team the victory. Kerry Park netminder Rett Rook made 42 saves for the win.
“It was a good team performance,” Osmond said. “Everyone was battling.”
At Kerry Park Arena on Tuesday night, Jordan Martin opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal in the first period. Jacob Malloch made it 2-0 in the second period, but the Braves struck back five minutes later, then made it 2-2 on a third-period powerplay. Josh Poland restored the Isles’ lead just before the midway point of the third, and the team made it hold up. Rook stopped 40 of 42 shots for the win.
With the two recent victories, the Isles hold the upper hand in the season series against the Braves, winning six of 10 games, although one of those victories was vacated due to an administrative error.
In between the wins over Saanich, the Isles lost a narrow decision against the Campbell River Storm, who have been in a season-long dogfight with the Cougars for first place in the league.
The Isles found themselves down 3-0 in the first 10 and a half minutes, but got back in the game with a powerplay goal by Will Connors late in the first period, and Jacob Malloch made it a one-goal game in the second, but couldn’t close the gap.
Matt Henwood started the game in net and allowed three goals on five shots. Rook replaced him and stopped all 52 shots that he faced.
“We didn’t start well, but we battled back,” Osmond said. “It was nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Isles are now heading into the final four games of the season They play host to the Peninsula Panthers Saturday at 7:30 p.m., then have a home-and-home series with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, playing at Kerry Park Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and in Comox for a Family Day matinée on Monday afternoon.
The Isles finish the regular season on the road against Oceanside on Feb. 18.
The Isles can’t move up in the standings, but they can avoid dropping to fourth place in the South.
“We told the guys they have to win out to guarantee third place,” Osmond said. “We can’t think we can lose one, because [Westshore] might not lose either. All three teams, we expect to beat, but they aren’t going to roll over.”