It all came down to this: the final game of the regular season against the Saanich Braves, with second place overall in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League up for grabs. For the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, a win would mean a meeting in the first round of the playoffs against their North Division rival Campbell River Storm. With the dominating Victoria Cougars solidifying first place overall in the league, the Icemen had their eyes on second best.
“We want this,” said head coach Jordan Butcher. “We want second place, we’ve been saying it for a while, and we want to play Campbell River,”
Heading in to Saturday’s contest, the Glacier Kings sat at 45 overall points (21-17-3), while the Saanich Braves reached 46 (20-16-6). A win, in any form, would have given the Kings their wish.
On Friday night, a win against the Peninsula Panthers would have helped take some pressure off the Kings, but lost momentum late in the game forced the Yetis’ to falter.
After one period of play in Peninsula, the Kings had a 2-1 lead on goals by Adam Robertson and Mitch Ball, who continued his torrid February play.
In the second, Jackson Garrett and Garrett Halls tallied before Joe Densmore answered back for the Panthers. Michael Scobie scored the fifth goal of the game for the Yetis, but then momentum switched as Densmore and Jake Bryan pulled the Panthers to within one.
In the final frame, the wheels fell off for the Glacier Kings, as Peninsula used the energy of the home crowd to put the Kings away. Three goals, from Ryan Hunter, Jake Bryan, and Dave Stephens, made it a 7-5 final in favour of the home team.
The Kings then headed into the pivotal Saturday matchup against Saanich. Playing in their third game in as many nights, nobody expected the Braves to come out fast and furious: but they did.
The Braves handled play right from puck drop, and Jean Luc-Fournier scored just over a minute in to the game, sucking the life out of the crowd early. They were re-energized when Wade Bartlett tipped home a shot from the point to tie things up, but Sam McMullen tallied late in the frame to put Saanich up 2-1.
In the second, goaltender Cameron Large kept the Kings in the game, stopping all 17 shots he faced. Unfortunately for the Icemen, they couldn’t get on the board as they continued to struggle in the attacking zone, amassing just six shots on Saanich goaltender Bowman Rutledge.
In the final frame, the Braves continued to dominate puck possession. The Glacier Kings got caught up in some undisciplined play, and the Braves took advantage. Ty Jones scored his league-leading 34th goal of the year, before McMullen potted an empty netter, making the final score 4-1 for the visitors. Large made 36 saves in the loss.
With the regular season ending in disappointing fashion, the Glacier Kings didn’t have much time to dwell on a series that could have been against the Storm. Instead, taking third place overall, the Icemen prepared to take on the sixth-place overall Kerry Park Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. Game one went last night, with result unavailable at press time. Game two in the best-of-seven series goes Thursday in Kerry Park with game three Saturday, Feb. 25 at Courtenay (7:30 p.m.) and game four in Kerry Park on Feb. 27. Listen to Yeti home games at www.glacierkings.ca.