The Kerry Park Islanders came back from the Christmas break ready for action.
In their return to action after nearly three weeks off, the Isles defeated the Peninsula Panthers 5-2 in North Saanich on Friday night, then took the league-leading Campbell River Storm to double overtime in Mill Bay on Saturday before falling 3-2.
“The guys came back rejuvenated and excited, and healthy, too,” Kerry Park head coach Aaron Spotts commented.
Three veteran forwards came back from injuries for the weekend games. Avery Webb, who was injured in the preseason, played his first two games of the year, Samson McLean came back after missing 25 games, and Tanner Tiel returned after four games on the sidelines before Christmas.
“Avery was excited to get going,” Spotts said. “He’s a 20-year-old, so he’s playing out his junior career. It gives us a lot of depth. Tiel has been a leader on the team; he’s having a career year and we rely on him in a lot of situations, on offence and defence, powerplay and penalty kill. Samson was out a few months. He brings a lot of energy and excitement; he plays with a lot of heart.”
Tiel recorded a goal and an assist against Peninsula on Friday, and McLean chipped in with a pair of helpers. The Isles jumped out to a three-goal lead as captain Romaeo D’Intino scored at the 7:30 mark, then Alex Engan and D’Intino scored just 20 seconds apart later in the period. Peninsula made it 3-1 with a powerplay goal before the break. Tiel scored his third shorthanded goal of the season late in the second, and Evan Easton made it 5-1 on the powerplay early in the third. Peninsula managed one more, also on the powerplay, with just over a minute left in regulation.
Rookie defenceman Dawson Blanchette finished three assists, and Kerry Park goalie Rett Rook made 46 saves for the win.
The Isles had mixed feelings about their double-overtime loss to Campbell River on Friday. On one hand, the Storm are the league’s top team and typically outscore their opponents by more than a 2-1 margin. On the other, it’s still a loss, and worth just one point in the standings.
“They’re a big threat; they’re the best team in the league, and we were right there,” Spotts said. “At times we got a bit amped up. We need to learn to control our emotions and have more discipline and control.
“I think we got better as the game went on, and that’s a positive sign.”
The Storm opened the scoring 64 seconds after the opening faceoff, but D’Intino replied a little after the midway point of the first period. Campbell River scored shorthanded to take a 2-1 lead into intermission. It stayed like that until 18:24 of the second when Campbell River went up 3-1. Kerry Park still had enough time to make it 3-2 on a goal by Isaac Leik before the second period ended, and Tiel evened the score early in the third.
There was no scoring through five minutes of four-on-four overtime, but the Storm scored after just 58 seconds of three-on-three overtime. Charles-Olivier Lepage made 35 saves in the losing effort.
“We were pretty disappointed with the result,” Spotts said. “The first period probably wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be. The effort was there; we were happy with the effort. Down 3-1, we were able to battle back and get into overtime; that shows a lot of character with our group. We’ve been a resilient group all year.”
Easton’s two points on the weekend gave him sole possession of top spot in the VIJHL scoring race, with 45 points to 43 for Victoria’s Booker Chacalias. Leik is third in league scoring with 39 points, Brandon McClintick is fifth with 38, including a league-leading 32 assists, and Tiel is seventh with 37. Blanchette is second in scoring among defencemen with 24 points.
As a team the Isles have 18 regulation wins, 12 regulation losses, one overtime win and four overtime losses for second in the South Division behind the Victoria Cougars, and third in the league behind the Storm and Cougars.
This weekend, they visit the Oceanside Generals on Friday, then host the Panthers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Generals have an overall record of 12-21-3-1, but have won seven of their last 10. Last Friday’s game marked Kerry Park’s first regulation win over Peninsula in five games this season and they will try to build on that.
“We’ve struggled with them a bit this year,” Spotts acknowledged. “But as long as we stick to our game, we should have some success.”