Thanks to the men in the crease, there was no increase or decrease in the gap between the two top teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League's North Division last week.
Goaltenders Michael Hails of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings and Cameron Large of the Nanaimo Buccaneers were both outstanding in a home-and-home series between the teams.
On Thursday, Jan. 17 in Nanaimo, Large was the game's first star as he blanked the Icemen 2-0. The Yetis outshot the Bucs 36-24 but could not solve the former Glacier King netminder.
On Saturday, Jan. 19 in Courtenay it was Hails turn to shine as the game's first star as he was all but unbeatable in a 2-1 Glacier Kings' win. The visitors outshot the Yetis 30-17.
The results left Nanaimo in top spot in the North with 47 points on a 22-15-3 record while the Icemen are in second with 38 points on an 18-18-2 record. The two teams have one more regular season meeting when the Yetis host the Bucs on Feb. 16.
At the Nanaimo Ice Centre on Jan. 17, Beau Blanaru scored early in the third period to give the Bucs the only they would need. Max Crawford was out of the play after taking a puck to the face and did not return to the game. Jake Calverley sealed the deal with an empty netter with 45 seconds left.
Comox Valley out shot Nanaimo 13-8 in the first period and 16-9 in the second, only to be stymied time and time again by Large.
"“Overall the boys played well, not every game that you out play [the opposition] you’re going to come out on top of the scoreboard. It’s a moral victory for us, we controlled what we could control and we feel confident in the team’s play going forward,” said Yetis' assistant coach Mark McNaughton.
The script was almost the same – except with the roles reversed – when the teams met Jan. 19 in Courtenay. Nanaimo out shot the Yetis 9-1 in the first but came up empty.
The visitors enjoyed a 12-2 shots-on-goal advantage in the third, with Blanaru the only Buc to get the puck past Hails. That tally came early in the final frame and was not enough to erase the two-goal lead the Yetis built in the second.
Jordan Crisp's sixth of the season at 2:11 and Rylan Ball's 10th of the year on the power play provided the Yetis with the winning edge. The Glacier Kings' penalty killers came up big, including denying the Bucs during a 6-on-4 in the final minutes.
Head coach Bill Rotheisler says close games are preparing the team for the post season. “These were tight games, which is exactly what we have to prepare for going into the playoffs. Playoffs are almost always a test of who can win the most one-goal games and whose special teams are more committed. I believe there is a strong foundation to continue to develop over the last 10 games so we are prepared to go deep in the playoffs.”
The Glacier Kings close out the January portion of their season with a flurry of three games in four days. On Jan. 24 they are in Victoria to play the league-leading Cougars. On Jan. 26 they host the Saanich Braves (7:30 p.m. Sports Centre Arena #1). On Jan. 27 they are in Parksville to play the Oceanside Generals.
ICE CHIPS It took Mitch Ball exactly 44 seconds to notch his first point with the BCHL Cowichan Valley Capitals; after being called up on Jan. 10 Ball assisted on the Caps' first goal against the Nanaimo Clippers on Jan. 11 ... the Caps are the lowest scoring team in the BCHL ...