Kerry Park Islanders defenceman Connor Vanden Hueval eludes a Saanich Predators player during the Isles’ 2020-21 home opener on Saturday, Oct. 3. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Young Isles earn split to open season

Kerry Park beats Saanich in home opener

After a close loss to open the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season last Friday, the Kerry Park Islanders bounced back with victory on Saturday to earn a split in their home-and-home series with the Saanich Predators.

The Isles were defeated 4-2 in Saanich on Friday, but responded by winning 5-2 when the teams met again at Kerry Park Arena the following night.

“We were very pleased with the outcome,” Isles head coach Brandon Cox said of Saturday’s result. “It was a good win against a veteran squad. We’re pretty happy with the young guys.”

Those “young guys” feature 10 players age 17 or under — including four defencemen — and a pair of 18-year-old goalies.

On Saturday, Reid Fitzpatrick posted four points, including two second-period goals, to lead the Isles to their first win of the year, while each of his linemates put up two points, Kirk Whittaker with a goal and an assist and Louis Ferraro with a pair of helpers. Also scoring were Jackson Egan and Colten Thompson, while Bailey Monteith stopped 29 of 31 shots in the Kerry Park net.

On Friday, Thompson staked the Isles to a 1-0 lead, and Kerry Park led 2-1 after the first period, thanks to a goal by Dawson Elzinga. But the Predators scored three unanswered in the second and cruised to victory. Monteith stopped 34 of 38 shots.

Cox blamed “mental errors” for the loss.

“They’ve got a handful of guys who have scored in this league,” the coach said. “And they capitalized on our mistakes.”

The coach was particularly impressed with Monteith, whose weekend included fending off a breakaway and a pair of two-on-one rushes on Friday night.

“He gave us an opportunity to weather the storm and come out with a win that night,” Cox said. “[On Saturday], up until the last five minutes he had the shutout.”

Thompson scored two goals in his first two games this year after notching three in 41 appearances last season.

“He’s really been working hard,” Cox noted. “He’s big and strong. He’s coming into his own. He really put in work in the off-season and he’s faster and stronger this year.”

The Kerry Park penalty kill unit was also excellent, holding the Predators scoreless on seven opportunities over two games, which included shutting down a 5-on-3 midway through the third period on Saturday, with a couple of big blocks from rookie defenceman Tynan Klein-Beekman.

The Isles have just one game this weekend as they host the Westshore Wolves, coached by former Kerry Park bench boss Aaron Spotts, on Saturday at 7:30 in the first half of a home-and-home series that will be closed out in Langford next Wednesday. All VIJHL games are carried live on HockeyTV.

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