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It was a battle of first place teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League Sunday afternoon at Archie Browning Arena. The Victoria Cougars (20-14-1-1) hosted the Nanaimo Buccaneers (28-7-0-1) in a 3:30 pm match-up. Nanaimo prevailed by the score of 4-1.
“Every win matters now, as there are only 10 games left in the regular season,” said Coach Suneil Karod.
Nanaimo sits first in the North Division, tied with the Campbell River Storm at 57 points each, while Victoria occupies first in the South Division. They are tied with the Saanich Braves for total points entering Sunday’s action at 42.
Both teams know that their respective first-place leads are tremulous.
The only goal of the first period came at 6:06 on the penalty kill for Nanaimo. The Buccaneers broke in on a 3-on-2, with Trent Bell carrying the puck into the Cougars zone. In an attempted backhand pass, the puck deflected off of a Cougars defenceman and ended up in the net. It was an unassisted, short-handed marker.
Victoria failed to capitalize on the man advantage during the first period. Nanaimo was assessed four consecutive minors as well as a 10-minute misconduct call on Cam Nickerson at 19:40.
“The powerplay was working. I liked the way played, we just didn’t capitalize; didn’t have that killer instinct,” said Karod. “And the first goal was just bad luck. But I know we have Saanich breathing down our necks, so we need to tighten up a little, going forward.”
The second period was dominated by the Buccaneers.
Again, Trent Bell scored the only goal of the period. At 18:15, the Nanoose Bay 20-year-old buried the puck as he was the trailing forward on an odd-man rush, that saw Nate Reinhart make the initial save, but did not control the rebound. The goal was assisted by Jayden Schubert and Nickerson.
At 3:35 of the third period the Cougars broke Derek Krall’s shutout bid, off of an offensive zone faceoff win. Mateo Albinati walked in and put the puck backhand behind Krall. Matthew Sparrow and JC Ingram assisted.
The comeback was short-lived as 14 seconds later; a Cougar defender gave the puck away through the slot. Coleman Doney intercepted the attempted pass. In a scrambled play, Owen Dalman ended up with the puck on his stick and buried the puck into a wide-open Cougars goal. Brandon Roberge earned the first assist on the play.
Nanaimo buried a fourth goal at 8:08, a backbreaker on the powerplay, scored by Nickerson.
“We will have to tighten up the defence with just 10 games left in the season, but Reinhart played well,” added Karod.
The Cougars made a good attempt to come back on the Buccaneers during the latter stages of the third period, but it was too little, too late and Krall had locked the door on any opportunities.
Shots were 42-36 for the visitors. Nanaimo went 1/6 on the powerplay while Victoria failed to score on their six opportunities.
Thursday and Friday, Jan 18 and 19 the Oceanside Generals and Cougars play a back-to-back, home-and-home set, starting in Victoria.
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