As the Lake Cowichan Kraken and Comox Valley Glacier Kings warmed up for last Friday’s Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League tilt at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, an appropriate song came over the PA system.
‘Lonely Boy’ by the Black Keys, which features the line, “I’ve got a love that keeps me waiting,” blared out over the ice.
Those lyrics fit the moment perfectly. Not only was this the first junior B hockey game in decades in Lake Cowichan — a town that definitely loves its hockey — but the Kraken’s first three games of the season had been postponed, and then this contest was delayed for an hour after the visiting team’s bus broke down.
The next song, however, was ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,’ as covered by Nickelback, and this was Friday night. You can’t win ‘em all.
The Kraken did come close to winning their home debut, tying the Glacier Kings through regulation time, then playing through a scoreless overtime before ultimately falling in the shootout by a 4-3 final score.
After team introductions and a ceremonial faceoff that included members of the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation, Mayor Bob Day, Lady of the Lake Mariah Segee and former pro hockey players Steve Lindgren and Brian Lundberg, it didn’t take the Kraken long to notch their first home goal as Kellan Brienan’s shot fooled Comox netminder Ryder Lally just 95 seconds after the first official puck drop.
The Glacier Kings scored twice in the second period before the Kraken got going again in the third. The hosts tied the score on a goal by KC Cosgrove just 56 minutes into the frame, then went ahead when Ryland Semaniuk scored at 3:49. The Glacier Kings forced overtime on Liam Schreiber’s second of the night with four and a half minutes left in regulation.
Neither team scored in overtime, sending the game to a shooutout. Jake Hebert, who earned first star honours by stopping 34 of 37 shots in regulation, was beaten on two of three shootout attempts, while both Lake Cowichan shooters were stopped by Lally.
Dan Whiteford was hired as head coach of the Kraken less than a week before they played their first game, replacing Ray Tremblay, who bowed out of the position earlier this month. Although he hadn’t been waiting as long as the players, he certainly recognized what a big deal it was to finally get into action.
“It’s been a bit of a long, drawn-out process, for sure,” he said. “The boys were pretty excited on Thursday down in Victoria; they were amped up, ready to go.”
The Kraken played their season opener the night before, losing another close game to the powerhouse Victoria Cougars by a 2-1 final score. The Cougars scored in the first and second periods, and Lake Cowichan defenceman Suhilpreet Deol finally solved Victoria goalie Jonah Chambers with 16 seconds left to play, making history as the Kraken’s first goal-scorer. The Kraken continued to battle until the final buzzer sounded, hitting the post with about 10 seconds remaining. Josh Robins had 32 saves for Lake Cowichan, while Chambers made 19 saves on 20 shots in the Victoria net.
“Even with an experienced team, that’s a hard place to go into,” Whiteford remarked about the Cougars’ den at Archie Browning Arena. “They’ve won a lot of games there for a reason.
“I loved our work ethic. Obviously it wasn’t a positive result in terms of getting the win, but it was a good result as far as competing with them.”
The Kraken closed out a busy stretch with a 4-2 loss to the Oceanside Generals on Saturday night. The Generals had already scored three before Lake Cowichan’s own Richard Bergman got the Kraken on the board with just one second left in the middle period. Kraken captain Donovan Griffin scored on the powerplay at 6:59 of the third to get his team within one, but the Generals added an insurance marker in the final period. Hebert was a standout once again for the Kraken with 28 saves on 32 shots, while Aaron Kaner made 23 stops for the Generals.
Although they only scored once with the man advantage, the Kraken had 11 powerplay opportunities, while they were only shorthanded three times.
“I thought we had all the chances in the world to beat that team,” Whiteford said of the Generals. “We just couldn’t pull the trigger.”
The Kraken visit the Campbell River Storm this Friday, then return home to host the Saanich Predators on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.