Kerry Park Islanders captain Matt Baird will lead his team into the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs later this week. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Kerry Park Islanders captain Matt Baird will lead his team into the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs later this week. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Kerry Park Islanders prepared for VIJHL playoffs

‘It won’t be for the faint of heart,’ says head coach Cox

Brandon Cox thinks that his Kerry Park Islanders are in a good spot going into the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs.

With their position in the South Division confirmed for a couple of weeks, they’ve been able to rest players to make sure everyone is healthy going into the postseason. And Kerry Park head coach Cox feels that his team stacks up well against the division-champion Victoria Cougars, who they will face in the first round, beginning this Thursday. The Cougars finished with a .745 points percentage (35 wins, 11 regulation losses, two overtime losses and one shootout loss) to the Isles’ .460 (22-26-1-1).

“We’re a more physical team,” he pointed out. “So in a seven-game series, if the refs let us play playoff hockey, I think we’re designed as a playoff team for a playoff run.”

Veteran defenceman Dylan Parsons returned to the lineup for the season finale against Peninsula, making his first appearance since mid-November. His presence gives the Isles some flexibility with the lineup.

“That gives us room to move Matt Baird up to forward,” Cox explained. “which gives us another scoring threat.”

The Isles went 3-3 in regular-season games in February, including two wins and two losses against playoff-bound teams.

“I thought we finished strong,” Cox commented. “We had one of the toughest schedules down the stretch, and we went .500 against those teams. That will get us prepared.”

The Isles wrapped up the regular season last Friday with a 5-3 loss to the Peninsula Panthers at Panorama Rec Centre. The Panthers led 3-0 after two periods and made it 4-0 early in the third. Ben Northcott and Reid Fitzpatrick scored just over a minute apart to make it a little closer, and Tobin Bergman added one more late after the Panthers had gone up 5-2. Brandon Bhondi made his VIJHL debut in goal, and the 19-year-old from Shawnigan Lake held his own with 27 saves.

“The boys were really happy to rally around him,” Cox said.

The first round will begin this Thursday in Victoria. The teams will play at Kerry Park Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., then again in Victoria on Sunday, and back at Kerry Park on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. If necessary, they will play again in Victoria next Thursday (March 3), at Kerry Park next Saturday (March 5) and in Victoria next Sunday (March 6). That’s a lot of hockey in a short time.

“It won’t be for the faint of heart,” Cox said. “I can tell you that much.”

VIJHL

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