The Victoria Cougars' power play blasted the Kerry Park Islanders for 11 goals in a 12-1 win in Game 5 at the Archie Browning Sports Centre on Sunday.
The series-clinching victory sees the Cougars waiting to see who they'll play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League championship final. The Saanich Braves lead the Peninsula Panthers 2-1 in their semifinal series, with Game 4 going Monday night at Panorama.
“Eleven power play goals (on 19 man advantages) was one of the more bizarre games I’ve ever been a part of in this league, and I’ve seen some bizarre things,” said Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt, who started as an assistant under Craig Didmon with the Cougars in 2004-05.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen 19 power plays.”
Sunday’s blowout was the second game in less than 24 hours for the Cougars and Islanders. Victoria won 5-4 in overtime at Kerry Park on Saturday.
The Cougars are gunning for their second championship under Van Helvoirt, who won it in 2008 in his first season as head coach after taking over from Didmon. It’s seventh time in the past eight seasons the Cougars will battle for the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy as league playoff champs.
“(We have) a strong team this year, but it’s a bit of a different feel in the room (from last year),” Van Helvoirt said.
Though few will talk about it, everything about this year has been to avenge the Cougars’ devastating collapse in the 2011 final, when they blew a 3-0 series lead and lost to the Panthers.
Peninsula scored just once in the first three games of that series, then broke out offensively and won four straight. They went on to win the Cyclone Taylor Cup as provincial champions.
Whether it's the Panthers or Braves, either opponent brings with them a rich story line against the Cougars in the final. The Panthers bring a carryover from last year’s final, while the crosstown Braves haven’t won the championship since 1996 and have never faced the Cougars in the finals.
Even with a 3-1 series lead going into Sunday’s game, Van Helvoirt and the Cougars weren’t completely happy with their first four games.
“We did a lot of preparation for the short turnaround for Sunday’s (matinee). One of the keys was to get firing on the power play.”
Little did the frustrated Islanders know what devastation awaited them. Playing a rough-and-tumble series throughout, the Islanders continued their physical style with five penalties in the first period and a game misconduct to former Grizzlies defenceman Kevin Woodyatt.
The Cougars connected on four of those power plays, with goals from Mark Walton, Colin Minardi, Connor Stephens and Nathan Chen-Mack. And when the Islanders penalties continued in the second, the Cougars kept scoring, with Walton, Stephens and Chen-Mack tallying on the power play.
Perhaps the most telling accomplishment of the day was that Sam Rice scored the only even-strength goal of the game. It was a tough feat in a game that saw 209 penalty minutes – 36 to the Cougars and 173 to the Islanders.
Trevor Chown, Kurtis Kunz, Josh Wyatt and Jake Nixon scored in the third period, all on the power play.
The Islanders' meltdown featured five game misconducts in total, three of them in the third period, as well as seven 10-minute misconducts.
“We managed to block out some of the distractions going on in the game and on the ice,” Van Helvoirt said.
Game 4 goes Wyatt’s way
Despite outshooting the Islanders 31-16 in the first two periods of Game 4 on Saturday, the Cougars trailed 4-2. That’s when Josh Wyatt stepped up with two goals in the third period and an assist on the overtime winner by Brody Coulter.
“Saturday was a case where we were almost pushing too hard,” Van Helvoirt said. “It was one of those nights where we’d get a few chances then (Kerry Park) would score on the counter-attack.”