The Saanich Braves are ready to show the league they are a class organization, an original franchise playing in the same rink from 50 years ago.
The puck drops at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, for the VIJHL Prospects Game at Pearkes Arena.
Representing the Braves are Reid Lindsay, an 18-year-old defenceman who has played 15 games with the Victoria Grizzlies and 18 games with the Braves. So are forward Zack Guerra, third in Braves scoring with 16 goals and 12 assists, forward Ryan Strange, (23 points), defenceman Jake King, the only 17-year-old out of the bunch who has 21 points, and Braves starting goalie Connor Cheyne. Other than King, the group are all 18 years old.
It’s an interesting situation for Cheyne, who gets just one sweet period to play in.
“You want to face a few shots to show what you can do, to get a few saves in and get into the game,” said Cheyne.
The Peninsula Minor Hockey product debuted with one period for the Braves in the VIJHL last year, having finished high school as part of the Spectrum hockey academy.
This year the six-foot-three goalie has a 9-7 record (as of Jan. 18) and a goal of playing as much hockey as he can, and hopefully parlaying that into a spot on a college team.
“When I heard about the Prospects Game I thought ‘OK maybe that’s a good way to get my name out there,’” said Cheyne, who has put off post-secondary for now.
Last year it took all of about 18 seconds for the first hit of the Prospects Game to be thrown, according to Braves coach Sam Waterfield.
”It’s a hockey game, more than an all-star game, there’s a lot on the line,” Waterfield said.
“I’ve heard from guys who played last year that it’s a pretty good game,” said King. “I’ll be ready to play.”
Will there be scouts in the stands to watch the prospects? Maybe. Most of the local Junior A clubs are playing that weekend while the coaching staff are also already familiar with the players in the VIJHL, Waterfield said.
“It’s hard to say, they do watch online. Certainly if you want to advance your career, you’ll take it serious.”
The Prospects Game, and the previous All-Star Game in Campbell River on Jan. 20, are good motivators for those Braves attending. It’s been a tumultuous season for the Braves. Following a sizzling 12-0 start, the Braves regressed back to .500 with a slump to open to the new year. With a core of veterans who made it to Game 7 of the 2018 VIJHL championship final, it may just be a matter of flicking on the switch in February.
“Yeah there was a bit of a slump in November but we’ve pulled together as a team,” Cheyne said. “We started great but then everyone in the league got better [as the season progressed].”
Representing the Saanich Braves at the All-Star Game are Dale McCabe, Gavin Grewal, Jake Wilhelm and Evan Abgrail.