Down 3-2 and with their nine-game win streak threatened, the Victoria Cougars’ top line of Steve Axford, Sam Rice and Brody Coulter calmly and confidently out-skated the Kerry Park Islanders for three straight shifts near the end of their Oct. 13 matchup.
With three minutes and 20 seconds left, Rice passed it from the corner to Axford in front of the net, who gently kicked the puck to his stick and neatly slid it through the legs of Kerry Park goalie Matt Chester.
It tied the game late in the third, and even with some impressive heroics, the Cougars ultimately lost 4-3 in overtime, ending a win streak that has the Cougars at 23 points, four ahead of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, putting them first in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
The Kings visit the Cougars tomorrow (Oct. 20), 7:15 p.m. at Archie Browning Sports Centre.
It’s a blazing start for the Cougars, netting 23 of a possible 24 points so far this year.
Coach Mark Van Helvoirt started the weekend off by naming Coulter this season’s captain with Axford and Josh Wyatt assistant captains. The team went on to win two more games on the weekend – two 3-2 victories – over the Saanich Braves on Friday (Oct. 14) and Kerry Park on Saturday (Oct. 15).
“Brody was the choice (for captaincy) in the dressing room and we (the coaching staff) agreed with that,” Van Helvoirt said. “With Coulter, Axford and Wyatt, you’ve got three captains there and you can’t go wrong.”
Axford came to the Cougars from the South Island Thunderbirds major midget team in 2008-09. He then played junior-A, mostly with the Cowichan Capitals and St. Albert Steel (Alta.), until rejoining the Cougars last spring.
Now in his last year of junior hockey, Axford is part of the league’s most potent offence. But Axford is humble about his team’s accomplishments so far.
“I think we (won nine straight games) because we work as hard as anybody in the league. I didn’t really follow the win streak. Some guys mentioned it but it didn’t change how we approached the games,” he said. “Our goal is to have lots of energy and work hard.
“We haven’t dominated. We’ve had to come back to win lots of our games, because we’re focused on playing 60 minutes of hockey.”