Perhaps it seemed a little too easy for the Victoria Cougars on Sunday.
After jumping to a 3-0 lead and outshooting the Kerry Park Islanders 19-5 in the first period, the Cougars barely hung on to a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League semifinals.
“We took the foot off the gas pedal for the last 40 minutes,” said coach Mark Van Helvoirt.
“We weren’t good enough, especially in the last two minutes. We can’t lack aggressiveness. But it was a win, which is a good start after a long break.”
It was in those final minutes that the Islanders blitzed the Cougars, and forward Jake Newman scored to make it 4-3 with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. Just minutes before, the Islanders’ Kyle Peterson nearly scored when he tipped a centering pass that went off the post behind Cougars goalie Bryce Halverson.
The game also featured a one-sided penalty ratio, as the Islanders took 54 penalty minutes to the Cougars’ 10.
“We had five (minor) penalties to their (17),” Van Helvoirt said. “We’re not here to hurt people, we’re here to play hockey. They’re also a skilled team playing for their playoff lives.”
Still, being shorthanded wasn’t enough to deter the Islanders, who feature some of the VIJHL’s most skilled forwards including the Peterson brothers, Cole and Kyle. Though the Petersons didn’t tally any points, the former Peninsula Panthers are omnipresent whenever they skate against the Cougars.
The brothers had a combined 27 points in 13 games during the Panthers’ run to the VIJHL championship last year, helping to defeat the Cougars in a seven-game final.
“This year’s Cougars team is faster but isn’t as physical as last year’s,” Cole said. “Five-on-five we’re better, we just have to stay disciplined. We were getting too frustrated.
“We were down 3-0 and all it took was hard work to get back in it.”
Cole is the elder brother of the two, and is playing his final year of eligibilty, while Kyle has two more years remaining. By request, the brothers were traded to the Islanders from the Panthers earlier this season, with Trevor Yee going the other way.