An unexpected hero capped off a shootout win for the Kerry Park Islanders last Saturday.
After three rounds of shooters, the Isles were deadlocked with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings at one goal apiece. That’s when the players started urging the coaches to send in Jack Strom. Strom, who has scored just three goals in 38 games this season while splitting time at defence and foward, might have seemed like an unexpected choice, but the coaches heeded his teammates’ suggestions and sent him over the boards.
“The guys all seemed like they’d seen something in practice. They believed that he would score,” said Islanders coach Brandon Cox, who allowed that he’d “seen [Strom] dangle before.”
The gamble worked and Strom gave the Isles a 6-5 victory and a vital two points in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoff race.
Strom had already set up a pair of goals in regulation: Jackson Egan’s opener in the first period and Cole Sloboda’s game-tying marker with 6:29 left in the third period.
The Isles led 2-1 after the first period, but the Kings came back to make it 3-3 after two. Comox went up 5-3 in the second, but Kerry Park came back to force overtime. Egan and Reid Fitzpatrick finished with a goal and an assist apiece, while Sloboda, Marko Tokic and Logan Walker also scored. Eric Young made 28 saves in regulation and OT as the Isles outshot the Kings 40-33.
In the shootout, the Isles’ first shooter, Brady Estabrook, beat Comox goalie Tanner Johnson, but Fitzpatrick and Walker were stopped. Meanwhile Eric Young allowed a goal to the first Comox shooter, then stopped the next three, setting the stage for Strom’s shootout winner.
The win on Saturday came a night after the Isles were defeated 5-1 by the Victoria Cougars at Archie Browning Arena. Fitzpatrick opened the scoring, but the Cougars dominated the rest of the game with two goals in the first, two in the second and one in the third. Dryden DeMelo made 37 saves as the Isles were outshot 42-31.
The Isles are now facing a gruelling stretch of four games in five days, beginning with road games against the Westshore Wolves on Wednesday and Saanich Predators on Friday. On Saturday, they will play host to the Predators at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, the Wolves will visit Kerry Park Arena at 3 p.m.
With four wins, two regulation losses and one overtime loss so far in January, the Isles have made a strong bid for a playoff spot, and Cox wants to keep that going.
“We need to keep separating ourselves from the [Lake Cowichan] Kraken and [Port Alberni] Bombers. Our goal this week is to get some wins, get some points, and keep working along.”
Cox has stepped up as head coach since Troy Newans announced last Sunday that he was stepping down from the position. Newans, who lives in Parksville and was putting in long hours driving to practices, said there was “no animosity” in the decision.