It’s taken until game 15 of their Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season, but the Westshore Wolves finally get to test their mettle against the Victoria Cougars.
As the teams prepare to face off for the first time this season Wednesday night (Oct. 15, 7 p.m.) at The Q Centre, Wolves head coach Brian Passmore said there’s a feeling of excitement around his club.
“It’s going to be a good test for us and we’re really looking forward to it,” he said of facing the two-time defending league champions. “A lot of the players have been talking about this game for a couple weeks.”
Passmore figures both teams will come out and play physical from the get-go to try and throw the other team off their game. With Victoria known as a strong defensive team and the Wolves more of an offensive-minded team, it has the makings of an epic battle.
“We try to play tight-checking defence and let the offence take care of itself,” Passmore said.
Tonight’s game marks the second time in just over a week that the Wolves will play a division leader.
On Oct. 7 at The Q Centre, the Wolves battled Campbell River, the top team in the North, to a 5-5 tie. While it provided fans with exciting, end-to-end hockey, it wasn’t the kind of game Passmore hopes to see more of.
“That was not defensive hockey, that was a shootout,” he said. “But it was fun to watch, even from the bench.”
After taking a 5-2 lead with four straight goals in the second period – three of which came from Nick Guiney – the Wolves gave up three goals to the Storm in the third, then relied largely on goalie Riley Welyk in overtime to keep the visitors from skating off with a massive comeback win.
The hope is to take what they learned in that game and bring it forward against the Cougars, Passmore said.
“If you take two shifts off, those teams are going to score,” he said. “The momentum’s crazy in Junior B hockey. That’s what we’ve gotta learn playing those teams, to battle through and do the little things when you’ve got the lead.”
While Passmore is starting to see the Wolves care more about playing for each other every night and improving their team play, there have definitely been some individual bright spots this season.
Heading into last weekend’s road games in Saanich and Kerry Park (both finished after the Gazette’s long weekend deadline), Kyle Richter led the league scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists in 12 games. A relatively quiet veteran who provides leadership on the ice, Richter has “been a real workhorse” for the team so far, Passmore said.
“He scores at even-strength, on the power play, shorthanded – he plays through pain and he’s showed real determination.”
Guiney’s breakout game last week was a good reward for his consistent hard work and great attitude, the coach added. The 18-year-old forward parlayed his big game into some shifts playing for the Junior A Victoria Grizzlies the next night, a scenario Passmore expects to happen more this season.
Wolves forward Brett Lervold, who turns 19 next month and had 15 points in 11 games before last weekend’s games, has been practising with the Grizzlies of late and may yet see some playing time with the big team.
After tomorrow’s home game, the Wolves travel to Courtenay on Saturday to play the Comox Valley Glacier Kings for the first time this season.