In their lone Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League game last weekend, the Kerry Park Islanders lost 5-2 to the Saanich Braves.
Head coach Aaron Spotts felt that his team got off to a strong start and put in a good effort, but didn’t focus enough on their play in their own end.
“We gave up a lot defensively, gave up too many chances,” he said. “They’re a good team, and they capitalized on what we gave them.”
The Braves opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 13:30 of the first and added a second goal a minute and 13 seconds later. Rookie Evan Easton scored for the Isles with 1:27 left in the period, and Brandon McClintick found the net at 8:17 of the second. The Braves retook the lead at 11:09 and added two more in the third before the teams battled to a scoreless third.
Chase Anderson made 24 saves in the Kerry Park net, while Chris Combiadakis stopped 36 shots in the Saanich net.
The Braves have emerged atop the South Division standings after a season-long battle between the five clubs.
“They’ve improved as the year has gone on,” Spotts said. “They’ve probably been the most consistent team since the Christmas break. They’ve added a couple of players. They’re a strong team for sure.”
The Isles now sit two points back of the Victoria Cougars for second in the South and the fourth seed in the league-wide playoffs — which comes with home-ice advantage in the first round — and one point back of the Westshore Wolves for third in the division and the fifth seed. The Cougars have one game left, while the Isles and Wolves have two, including a head-to-head match.
As far as the playoff picture, at this point, the Isles could end up playing any of three teams — Saanich, Victoria or Westshore — in the first round. They don’t have a preference, though.
“Any team in the South can beat anyone on any given night,” Spotts said. “It would be nice to get home-ice advantage, but any team you play, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
“Whoever it is, it’s going to be a tough series, but we’re comfortable facing any of the three teams.”
The Isles will wrap up the regular season this weekend as they visit the Peninsula Panthers on Friday, then host the Wolves on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.