Thanks to back-to-back shutouts by goalie Rett Rook, the Kerry Park Islanders clinched their Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoff series against the Saanich Braves — their first series win since 2012.
After missing the final games of the regular season with concussion symptoms, Rook returned to the Islanders’ net for game four of the South Division semifinal series and backstopped his team to a 3-1 win, tying the series at two games apiece. He went on to make 41 saves in a 3-0 win at George Pearkes Arena last Thursday, then stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 7-0 victory on Saturday night to send the Braves packing.
In three starts this postseason, Rook has recorded a 0.33 goal-against average and a .992 save percentage.
“Getting Rett back was key,” said Islanders owner Mark Osmond. “He made great saves and kept us in the game.”
The series win was the first for the Isles since they eliminated the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in the first round of the 2012playoffs, and Osmond’s first since he bought the team in the fall of that year.
“It feels pretty damn good,” Osmond laughed.
The rest of the Isles played solid defence in front of their star netminder.
Saanich sniper Nick Guerra, who led the VIJHL in scoring with 81 points in 45 games during the regular season, was held to just two goals — both in the first game of the series — and one assist over six games. The Isles also killed off more than 90per cent of their penalties, the best mark in the league for the first round, and were one of only two teams to score a shorthanded goal.
“Everyone is working hard,” Osmond said. “There is a lot of belief in the team.”
Tanner Tiel scored the first goals on both Thursday and Saturday — and they both held up as game-winners. On Thursday,Tiel scored midway through the first period, Jacob Malloch added one early in the second, and Tiel added an empty-netter with 67 seconds left in the game.
On Saturday, Tiel’s eventual winner came at 18:14 of the first. Jarret Malloch potted a powerplay marker in the second, and the Isles carried a thin 2-0 edge into the third before the Braves fell apart. Goals by Samson McLean, Josiah Nadon, CalebFranklin, Will Connors and Brandon McClintick elevated the Isles in the third. Nadon finished the game with four points,Franklin had three, and Jarret Malloch and Ty Smith had two apiece.
Having done away with Saanich, the Isles will now face the Victoria Cougars in the South Division final after the Cougars downed the Westshore Wolves, also in four games.
The Isles’ struggles against the Cougars are well documented, but this playoff series is cause to revisit them.
Last time the Islanders won a playoff series, in 2012, they went on to be eliminated by Victoria 4-1 in the second round.Kerry Park’s 5-2 win at Archie Browning Arena on March 8 of that year marked the last time the Islanders defeated theCougars. The Isles have since lost 54 regular-season and playoff games against Victoria.
Osmond has never watched his team win a game against the Cougars. He’s not looking to win one game this time, however.He believes his team can win the series.
“We want to win this,” he said. “We’ve seen what we can do. I think we can beat them. Normally, it would be, ‘let’s go out there and win one game.’ Now it’s, ‘let’s go out there and win this series.’”
The Isles did take the Cougars to overtime in an October matchup, eventually losing 4-3. That was the closest they came in eight meetings this year. Osmond contends his team is built for postseason success, against the Cougars or anyone else.
“They’ve got a good team. We’ve got a good team,” he said. “We match up well.”
The series will begin on Thursday at Archie Browning Arena. The teams move to Kerry Park on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., then back to Archie Browning on Sunday, and at Kerry Park again next Tuesday at 7:30. If necessary, game five will go in Victoria on March 16, game six is at Kerry Park on March 18, and game seven at Victoria on March 19.