Perhaps already focused on the first round of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs, or maybe worn down from a hard push to lock up third place in the South Division, the Kerry Park Islanders closed out the regular season last Saturday with a 6-1 loss to the Oceanside Generals, the second-worst team in the league.
Islanders owner Mark Osmond would have liked to finish the regular season with a victory, but understood the circumstances.
“The guys have been playing playoff hockey for the last month, and they knew they didn’t have to win this one,” he said. “That wasn’t the way I wanted to end the season. It would have been nice to be .500.”
The Isles were missing defencemen Ty Smith and Connor Bissett for the finale, and No. 1 netminder Rett Rook sat out the game as he recovers from a concussion. The team also opted to rest some additional players in the third period. Still, they weren’t beaten as badly as the score might suggest.
“We outshot them quite a bit, but their goalie stood on his head,” Osmond said.
Tanner Douglas stopped 45 of 46 shots in the Oceanside net, only allowing Brandon Wilson’s opening goal. The Generals responded before the first period was over, then added three more in the second and two in the third.
Starting in place of Rook, Matt Henwood allowed six goals on 34 shots and suffered his first loss after three straight wins. Affiliate call-up Liam Tupper got in for the last 10 minutes and stopped all five shots he faced in his VIJHL debut.
The Isles will kick off their best-of-seven first-round playoff series with the second-place Saanich Braves this week with games at the George Pearkes Arena on Wednesday and Friday. The series moves to Kerry Park for Saturday and Tuesday, both home games starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Isles haven’t advanced out of the first round of the VIJHL playoffs since 2012, but they feel good about their chances this year after winning six of their eight regular-season games against Saanich. They still aren’t taking the Braves lightly.
“The boys are confident,” Osmond said. “They know Saanich is not going to be the same team we beat six times this season.”
Osmond is hoping to split the games in Saanich’s home arena, and feels his players have the ability to continue their recent success.
“They know what they’ve got to do,” he said. “They’ve just got to do it. They’ve done it most of January and February. They’ve just got to play the way they have most of this year and we’ll be fine.”