VIJHL: Cougars hope to bump slump against Braves Thursday night

Saanich Braves Jordan Game gets checked against the boards by Cougars Jacob Daughtry at Archie Browning Arena in December.

Saanich Braves Jordan Game gets checked against the boards by Cougars Jacob Daughtry at Archie Browning Arena in December.

With a handful of games remaining in the season, it’s a tough time for the Victoria Cougars to slump.

Victoria recently relinquished its grasp on first place in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

Now it’s doubtful they’ll get it back.

The Cougars host the Saanich Braves tonight (Feb. 3) at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

It’s been four games since Victoria (27-8-2) and Saanich (10-20-6) last met, a 7-1 win for the Cougars on Jan. 13.

Since that game the Cougars have been in disarray, losing to Peninsula, Campbell River and two to the Kerry Park Islanders.

Going into the home-and-home series with Kerry Park (18-19-2) last weekend, the Cougars had a chance to keep pace with Comox Valley Glaciers for first in the VIJHL.

But 4-1 and 5-2 losses to Kerry Park held the Cougars back while the Glaciers (31-8-1) rocketed into the league lead and now hold a nine point lead (63) over the Cougars (56). Despite getting outscored 9-3 in the series, Victoria outshot the Islanders 48-22 on Thursday and then 59-20 on Saturday for a two game total of 107-42.

Victoria has seven games remaining, three of those in hand on the Glaciers. Unfortunately a perfect run by Victoria wouldn’t be enough as the Glaciers are unlikely to trip at the end of the trail.

Tonight’s is the final regular season meeting between Victoria and Saanich. The Cougars won seven of the eight so far, with Saanich’s only win coming in a shootout.

Saanich, meanwhile, won one of seven in January, their last win against Campbell River on Jan. 2.

The Braves are eight points up on last-place Campbell River in seventh in the VIJHL.

Victoria scoring leaders: Trevor McNeil, 25 goals; Adam Steenbergen, 36 assists; Justin Sotkowy, 125 penalty minutes.

Saanich scoring leaders: Sam McMullen, 11 goals; James Kellington, 27 assists; Ryan Preston, 129 penalty minutes.