Kerry Park Islanders bow out in VIJHL playoffs

A season that saw the Kerry Park Islanders take big steps forward came to its end last Thursday.

A season that saw the Kerry Park Islanders take big steps forward came to its end last Thursday as the Kerry Park Islanders were eliminated from the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The Isles were beaten 3-0 by the Victoria Cougars, who won the best-of-seven South Division final four games to one.

Like the rest of the series, Thursday’s game was close most of the way as the Cougars went ahead 1-0 with a powerplay goal at 12:27 of the second period, and the score remained that way until midway through the third. Kerry Park goalie Rett Rook made 33 saves in the loss, while Victoria’s Anthony Ciurro earned the shutout with 31 stops.

“The boys played well in the series,” owner Mark Osmond said. “We outplayed them 80 per cent of the time, but the difference was we couldn’t score on our opportunities. We outshot them in most of the games; we just couldn’t put it in the net.”

Osmond looked at the first game of the series, which the Cougars won 6-5 in overtime, as a turning point.

“[The Cougars’] experience and the age of their players was the difference,” he said. “Our guys will have that experience for next year. I think if we had won that game, the series would have ended differently.”

The Isles did beat Victoria 3-2 in game two of the playoff series to end a five-year winless stretch against the Cougars that predated Osmond’s ownership of the team. Not a bad result for a team that had only half a dozen players from the 2015-16 team come back full-time this season.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the boys,” Osmond said. “They battled every shift. We just came up short. For having the squad we had at the start of the year, trying to rebuild the whole thing… Our goal was to get through the first round and see what happened after that.”

Osmond gave credit for the team’s success this season to coaches Aaron Spotts, Jason Mohr and Rob Webb. He also noted the contributions of captain Jacob Malloch and his fellow 20-year-olds Jordan Martin, Josh Poland and Garnett Roberts, key returnees like Caleb Franklin, Josiah Nadon and Ty Smith, and youngsters like Scott Smith and Samson McLean.

“The young guys got some great experience for next year,” he said. “We should be returning at least 12 players. We want to challenge next year. We want to be in the upper half of the league, not the middle.”

Although only four players will age out of junior hockey, another handful will probably make the jump to junior A next year, including Franklin, Rook and Connor Bissett. All three were affiliate players with the Cowichan Valley Capitals this season, although Rook didn’t see any game action.

“I’ll be surprised but glad if they come back,” Osmond said. “I hope they move up, but we’ve told them they’ll always have a spot on our team.”

The Isles will start trying to replace those departing players when they hold their prospect camp June 16-18 at Westhills. Interested midget or bantam players can get more information at islandersjrb.com

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