Five years and two days after the Kerry Park Islanders last beat the Victoria Cougars, the team once again defeated its Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League nemesis.
The Isles got past the Cougars 3-2 in game two of their South Island final series on Saturday, their first win over the Victoria team since March 9, 2012, and first win over the Cougars at Kerry Park Arena since Jan. 29, 2011.
“The boys played with a lot of heart, and finally got that monkey off their back,” said Islanders owner Mark Osmond, who bought the team in late 2012 and had never seen them beat Victoria. “I didn’t think they played as well as they did Thursday night in the first and second periods. On Thursday, we bossed them around. On Saturday, it took us a while go get going, but when we did, we did great.”
Tanner Tiel scored twice for the Isles, including the winner at 15:39 of the third period. Going in 2-on-1 with centre Will Connors, Tiel took the pass as he skated down centre ice and snapped the puck past Victoria goalie Anthony Ciurro.
Tiel had opened the scoring at 7:42 of the first period. The Cougars tied the game late in the first, then went up with a powerplay marker at 4:01 of the second. Defenceman Connor Bissett evened things up for the Isles at 7:36 of the third, setting the stage for Tiel’s second.
A scrappy forward who had eight goals in 45 regular-season games, Tiel has elevated his game in the playoffs, scoring five times in nine contests.
“At the start of the year, he was 50/50 on making the team,” Osmond said. “Now he’s an integral part of our team. He’s one of those players other teams don’t like playing against — he gets under their skin — and he can put the puck in the net, too.”
The bad news for the Isles was that, despite taking that huge step, they still trailed the Cougars 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, with game four set to go at Kerry Park Arena on Tuesday after press time. The Cougars beat the Isles 6-5 in overtime last Thursday, then won 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. Both Victoria wins came at Archie Browning Arena.
Osmond was still pleased with the way his team played in both contests. The Isles led 3-2 after two periods and 5-3 midway through the third, but the Cougars clawed their way back and won within the first minute of overtime.
“On Thursday, we probably played the best two periods of hockey of the year,” he said. “I thought it would be tough for them to get three pucks past [goalie Rett] Rook, but they did.”
Scoring for the Isles on Thursday were Jacob Malloch, with two, and Bissett, Kayden Peck and Jarrett Malloch with singles.
On Sunday, Kerry Park trailed 3-0 after the first period. Samson McLean and Jacob Malloch scored to get the team within a goal, but the Cougars potted another to lead 4-2 at the second intermission. Caleb Franklin made it a one-goal game for Kerry Park once more, but the Isles couldn’t close the gap.
“We dug ourselves a bit of a hole,” Osmond said. “It’s tough coming back, and we couldn’t tie it up.”
A win on home ice on Tuesday would force the series to at least six games, with at least one more at Kerry Park on Saturday. After Tuesday’s game, the series moves to Archie Browning for Thursday night.