The 2018-19 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season didn’t start off the way Kerry Park Islanders head coach Aaron Spotts would have liked, but incremental improvements from the team’s first game to its second gave him reason to be optimistic.
“Obviously it’s not the start you want,” Spotts said after the Isles lost their first two games of the campaign, falling 7-1 to the Saanich Braves at George Pearkes Arena on Friday, and 6-2 to the Victoria Cougars at Kerry Park Arena on Saturday.
The Braves built up a three-goal lead early in the first period on Saturday before Isaac Leik scored the Isles’ first goal of the season with 4:22 left to play, and it was 3-1 after the first. The Braves added three more in the second and one in the third to complete the rout.
“There were a lot of nerves,” Spotts admitted. “The first five minutes, we were down 3-0, and it’s hard to come back after that. Saanich is a really strong team, too.”
Kerry Park netminder Rett Rook stopped 27 of 34 shots, while Chris Combiadakis made 19 saves in the Saanich net. Duncan’s own Cam LeSergent had a goal and an assist for Saanich, one of five Braves to record multiple points on the night.
The Cougars scored the only goal of the first period on Saturday, then went up 2-0 early in the second. It stayed that way until Leik scored his second goal of the season at 11:36. The Cougars restored the two-goal lead just 82 seconds later, but the Isles got back within a goal when Evan Easton notched a powerplay marker at 15:51. Victoria added another late in the middle frame, then scored two powerplay goals in the third.
The Isles were outshot 41-17 on the night. Rook made 35 saves for Kerry Park and Anderson Violette made 15 for Victoria.
“Victoria will be a strong team in the South this year,” Spotts commented. “We held on with them the first couple periods. Our compete level was high that night. It’s a good thing to build on.”
Several Kerry Park players are still making adjustments to the VIJHL game, including most of the defence corps, where 17-year-old Tory McClintick is the only returning player from last year. The blueline is also dealing with injuries to Avery Nielsen-Webb, who played forward and defence last year, and six-foot-five newcomer Arsh Dhillon, who played in the U.S. Premier Hockey League last year.
“Having those guys in the lineup will help with settling things down in the back end,” Spotts said, noting that Dhillon could be back this weekend.
The Isles visited the Nanaimo Buccaneers on Thursday, and play host to the Westshore Wolves on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.