The Junior B Saanich Braves rectified a slow start with 15 goals in two games over the weekend.
On Friday the Braves scored four times on the power play for a hard-earned win over crosstown rivals the Victoria Cougars (3-3). Saanich followed it up on Saturday with a 10-3 drubbing of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, in Courtenay.
It brings the Braves’ record to 3-3 as they ready to visit the Nanaimo Buccaneers (5-1) Thursday night, then host the Westshore Wolves (3-2) on Friday, 6:30 p.m. at Pearkes arena.
“[Against the Cougars] the guys played a solid 60 minutes and didn’t have that 10-minute breakdown that we’d been having,” said Braves coach Sam Waterfield. “There was a couple chunks where we were in a lull but it didn’t cost us and we were able to put the puck in the net.”
On Saturday, the Braves took advantage of a “fragile situation” where the transitioning Glacier Kings took to the ice with a new coach.
“Comox had an odd weekend with a new coach on Saturday,” Waterfield said. “The guys came out and started the game hard, capitalized on the chances. It was nice to see our scoring finally come out this weekend.”
Dale McCabe led the Braves in scoring Friday with two goals and an assist, then picked up four assists on Saturday, jumping to the league lead in scoring with 11 points in six games.
This year’s Braves are much younger than the group that finished in second place in the VIJHL South division last season, including a new coach and a lot of players born in 2000.
“We’re a young team, they’re coming together and it’s been a fun start,” Waterfield said. “At this level if you make a mistake it ends up in the back of the net and it’s going to cost you games, [and] it has early on this year and that’s something we need to work on.”
The Braves roster is mostly set but Waterfield did make a trade last week, acquiring 20-year-old Trevor Owens from the Peninsula Panthers for goalie Bryce Schiebel.
Owens scored in Friday’s win and is a proven scorer in the VIJHL with 27 points in 23 games last year and 80 points in 102 games overall.
Schiebel was released from the Junior A Yorkton Terriers last week and with Riley Mathieson already committed to the Braves this year. The move gives Schiebel the chance to be a starter, Waterfield said.
“[Schiebel] was an asset for us, and he deserves a chance to be the go-to guy,” Waterfield said.
The Braves’ single win in their first four games of the season came against the Oceanside Generals on Sept. 15. In that game the Braves took a 4-0 lead in the first period and hung on to win 5-4.
“It could have started better,” said defenceman Jake Wilhelm, an 18-year-old who played in the BCHL last year. “[The first four] games have been one goal differences. It would have been nice to be on the winning side of those games, but I think we’ve proved that we can be a top team in this league.”
The former South Island Royals major midget player is locally produced and returned home after he declined a summer trade from the Bulldogs to the Jr. A Melville Millionaires in Saskatchewan.