Sports

Saanich Braves visit wild, wild Westshore Wolves

There are good seasons and there are rebuilding seasons where any night can be a long night.

This is one of the latter for the Saanich Braves.

The Braves (8-18-2) visit the mercurial Westshore Wolves (11-13-7) tonight (Dec. 11) at Bear Mountain Arena with a 7 p.m. start. It’s part of a huge week for the Braves who host the league leading Victoria Cougars (23-4-2) at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Pearkes Arena.

November was not good for the Braves, with one win in 10 games, and December hasn’t started any better. The Braves fell 4-2 to the Peninsula Panthers on Thursday and 4-0 to the Oceanside Generals on Friday.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Cook said. “We’re not as young as people think but some of our veterans have under performed or are injured during this slump that we’re in.”

Only two players have dressed for all 28 games thus far, rookie defenceman Jack Rachwalski and Mackenzie Valentine. Twenty-year-old rearguards Jordan Groenheyde, Trevor Parkhouse and Garrett Kemmler, the latter a former VIJHL defender of the year, have each missed at least a quarter of the season, and returning 19-year-old defenceman Liam Sproule has only played three games.

Meanwhile the team’s second leading scorer, 17-year-old Nick Guerra, recently departed for a full-time spot on the Nanaimo Clippers, leaving a hole on the first line where he tallied eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 20 games.

“Guerra’s gone. He’s switched schools and has a billet. We did our job,” Cook said. “Guerra is the 10th guy from last year’s team now playing at the next level with five at college and five in junior A. Not many junior B teams can say that.”

So it’s a glass half full situation for the Braves, which are coming off a terrific 30-win season in last year’s 48-game schedule, but are currently on pace to win just 15 of the league’s expanded 53-game schedule in 2013-14.

“We’ve been close in games, or it’s this and that, really we need to compete and be better,” Cook said. “We’ve outplayed teams but we’re not putting the puck in the net. Do we want to reload? Yes, but even some of the good games we’ve found a way to lose. It’s a huge learning curve here.”

Pluses this season include the fine captainship of 19-year-old Sam McMullen who leads the team in points with 11 goals and 16 assists in 21 games. McMullen will match his career high of 33 points from 2012-13 by early January.

The Braves face the Cougars again next week, Thursday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m. at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, and play a two-game set with the Peninsula Panthers over the Christmas break, Dec. 20 at Pearkes and Dec. 27 at Panorama Recreation Centre.

sports@vicnews.com

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