Jaden McNulty scored the game-winner early in the third period to lead the Victoria Cougars past the Kerry Park Islanders 3-1 on Thursday night.
Having missed the past 11 games because of an undisclosed injury, McNulty beat Parker Swanson from the top of the blue paint after taking a cross-ice pass from Foster Martin.
Victoria also received goals from Shane Kime and Mateo Albinati.
The win moves the Cougars (16-12-0-1) to within a point of the South Island Division-leading Westshore Wolves who lost to the Nanaimo Buccaneers in the other VIJHL game.
Will Connors opened the scoring for the Islanders at 15:41 of the first period.
After a botched hit that left him head over heels in front of his own bench, Connors took a stretch pass from Connor Bissett that put him on a breakaway. The American import made no mistake by placing a well-placed shot just under the blocker of Patrick Ostermann for only his fourth goal of the season.
Ostermann shut the door from there, finishing with 26 saves.
Kime tied the game at 18:02 when his shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle rung off the iron and in. Picking up the assists were Darwin Lakoduk and Ethan Hersant.
Low on bodies, Victoria was forced to use two affiliate players in Hersant and Tyler Magnuson.
There would be no scoring until the 2:42 mark of the third period when McNulty put the Cougars ahead for good.
Just over three minutes later, Matthew Berryman and Brandon McClintick were assessed double game misconducts for fighting after referee Jeremy Couturier deemed it was a staged fight.
Off the faceoff, both players threw off their gloves and in a blink of an eye; Berryman dropped McClintick with one huge punch. Berryman was slapped with an additional penalty for being the aggressor.
Albinati would extend his point streak to three games with his 13th goal of the season at 7:14. With both teams playing four aside, Albinati went for a nine-second skate before wiring the puck off the far post and in.
Hersant, Lakoduk, and McNulty did a good job pinning Kerry Park in their own zone with just over a minute left in regulation.
The Islanders were finally able to pull Swanson, who faced a total of 41 shots, for an extra attacker with 7.1 seconds remaining.
Both teams went scoreless on four power-play opportunities.
Kerry Park (13-14-0-3) was unable to extend their two-game winning streak.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Derek Krall stopped 30 shots as the Nanaimo Buccaneers won 7-2 over the Westshore Wolves in front of 240 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, December 15 versus the Saanich Braves. Game time at G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre, located at 3100 Tillicum Road, is 6:30 p.m.
BAYVIEW PLACE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st star, Jaden McNulty (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2nd star, Mateo Albinati (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3rd star, Shane Kime (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)