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The Saanich Braves won back-to-back games this week to bring their point standings within four of the South Division-leading Victoria Cougars, while having one game in-hand. Earlier in December, the Braves had lost four consecutive games to drop out of contention for first place, which they had held in November.
They have now won four consecutive.
Thursday night, the Braves visited the red-hot Nanaimo Buccaneers, who had gone 14-3 from October 21st after a slow start, to take over second place in the North Division. The Braves defeated them 4-2. Friday, they hosted the up-and-down Westshore Wolves at Pearkes Arena, taking them out by the score of 6-3.
In Nanaimo, the Braves opened the scoring at 7:44 of the first on a marker by Kyle Mace and then proceeded to score again just 15 seconds later with Dale McCabe netting his 12th.
The Buccaneers got one back at 19:33 to close out the first down 2-1; Jacob Carr scored.
Shots after one were 15-11 Buccaneers.
Nanaimo made a game of it by scoring the lone goal of the second period, to tie it up 2-2 at 16:19. Two late goals to end the first period and the second period while playing at home should bring momentum, but with the score tied both teams played a defensive third period with just a total of 12 shots between them, five for Saanich and seven for Nanaimo.
At 5:36 Brandon Fushimi put the visitors ahead with the game winner.
At 11:52 there was some rough play and four Buccaneers eared two minute penalties, while three Braves were also penalized, giving the Braves a two-minute powerplay to work with. Six players were off for roughing, while Trey Watson of the ‘Bucs earned a slashing penalty.
At 13:22 and just 20 seconds remaining on the powerplay, Fushimi scored an insurance marker and the scored remained 4-2.
Riley Mathieson was in net for the Braves stopping 31 of 33 shots, while John Hawthorne stopped 24 of 28 that he faced. The powerplays went 0/5 and ¼ for the Braves. Mathieson was given first star honours for his efforts.
Brandon Fushimi earned three points, while Gavin Yee and Ted Brennan earned two assists each.
Wolves vs. Braves
The hot and cold Westshore Wolves, coming off consecutive wins, visited the Braves at Pearkes and if they expected to find a tired team, that played the night before against a streaking Nanaimo Buccaneers, they were in for a surprise.
Dale McCabe, second in Braves scoring and Nick Guerra, the league leader, who was held off the score sheet in Nanaimo had three point nights, while Gavin Grewal scored a goal and earn one assist.
By 12:24 of the second period, the Braves were up with four unanswered goals. McCabe, with one in each period, scored a powerplay marker at 12:24 to put the game out of reach for the Wolves.
Wolves, Jordan Guiney did all he could do to help his team mount a comeback by scoring two goals and assisting on another during the second half of the game. At 6:43 the score was 5-3 and an apparent comeback was in the making, however, with goalie Shawn Parkinson pulled in favour of the extra attacker, Quinn Miller scored an unassisted empty-netter goal to salt away the game at 19:09.
Shots were 35-34, Braves, while the powerplays went 1/6 and ¼ for the Wolves and Braves, respectively.
Bryce Schiebel stopped 31 of 34 shots for the Wolves. Parker Ellis earned two assists for the Wolves.
The Campbell River Storm remain in first place in the North Division with a record of 23-8-0-0 for 46 points. The Buccaneers are eight points behind and have played an extra game.
The Victoria Cougars remain in first place in the South Division and first place overall with 49 points in 34 games. The Storm need to play just over .500 hockey with their three games in-hand to tie the Cougars for the lead league.
The Cougars and Braves next meet on Friday, Jan 6 at Pearkes Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 PM.