On a Tuesday night in Esquimalt the Cougars were facing down their toughest opponent this year. Yes, the Cougars went 3-1 against the Bucs. Yes, the Bucs had a discipline problem in some of those games. But, this is playoff hockey and Nanaimo is hungry for Cyclone.
Nanaimo was the team that had to ride the bus South, but it was the Cougars with the “bus legs”. Nanaimo out-worked, out-skated, and completely out-played Victoria in the first period. The Cougars couldn’t get anything to work for them. The Buccaneers even gave them 3 power-plays. They were gifts too, one for a warm-up violation and two for too-many-men. In those 3 power-plays there was one solid scoring chance that almost broke the scoreless tie, for Nanaimo, short-handed…
The Cougars started playing slightly better in the 2nd. But, slightly better than awful isn’t much better. The Bucs opened the scoring on a Zach Evans point shot. Kevan McBean was able to get the goal back shortly after on a point shot of his own after one of the only Nanaimo break-downs of the game. Game was still tied after 2 periods, 1-1.
This says a lot about Victoria actually. Even with the team not playing well overall, against a very good team in Nanaimo, heading into the 3rd tied shows that Victoria is among the elite teams. If Victoria plays their best game, they are hard to beat.
The third showed more improvement over the previous two periods. The power-play on the other-hand didn’t improve at all. Another chance on the man advantage showed little in the way of scoring chances. As the period was dwindling and Overtime was looking likely the Bucs had other ideas. On a face-off in the Cougars zone right on the draw the puck is fired at the net. Sikkes makes a save and thinks he has the puck pinned under his arm. Unfortunately for him and the rest of his team, Jory Swanson saw the puck sitting on the post in a pile of snow. Swanson grabbed the gift and buried the go ahead goal with 3 minutes to go. The Cougars now trailing took an ill timed penalty with about 2 minutes left in the game and that was all she wrote.
Nanaimo out-shot the Cougars 38-31
Players of the game were Blake Wood with 30 saves and 1 GA and Matthew Berryman (0G1A).
Game 2 is Thursday in Victoria, 7pm.Follow the Cougars on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram.