Thin on D, Saanich Braves face big test in Game 5

Saanich Braves regain home advantage with 2-1 series lead over Campbell River Storm in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs

The Saanich Braves won Game 3 of their first-round playoff series the hard way.

Saanich needed overtime to beat the Campbell River Storm 6-5 on Sunday night.

The important thing, Braves coach Brad Cook said, is simply “that they did it.”

The Braves and Storm play Game 4 in Campbell River for Tuesday (Feb. 28), with the Braves up 2-1 in the series. Game 5 is back at Pearkes arena for Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Cook found lots of positives with Sunday’s game, despite having to win in overtime on a goal by 21-year-old James Kellington (earning him a hat trick) after giving up a 3-1 lead late in the second period.

“It’s a pretty important step for our young guys. You could see they were struggling with decisions in the first overtime, and our team was average, but we outplayed the Storm in the second OT. And now the young guys will be (that much more) ready (the next time),” Cook said.

“We got the win and we get home advantage back.”

Unfortunately for the Braves, defenceman Liam Sproule was injured in the second period on Sunday and could be out for the remainder of the playoffs. Hayden Long nursed a bump for much of Sunday’s win but was able to play through it.

Big defenceman Brandon Parmar is also unavailable for the trip to Campbell River on Tuesday because of a conflict with his studies at the University of Victoria. He’ll return for Game 5.

Tyler Smith, a 17-year-old defenceman from Sooke, joins the team from off the bench. Smith played 37 regular season games but has been a healthy scratch for the first three playoff games.

“Smith goes in and, if needed, we can put forward Josh McGladery on D,” Cook said. “(Playoffs) are a test of your team’s depth, so here we go.”

On Monday night the Oceanside Generals escaped elimination with a 7-2 win over the Peninsula Panthers. The Panthers now lead that series 3-1.

In the other Monday game the Comox Valley Glacier Kings doubled the Kerry Park Islanders 4-2, to even the series at 2-2.

All three series continue Tuesday night.