BRANDON WORKUN (LEFT) roughs it up along the boards with Glacier Kings' Jordan Crisp.

Penalties plague Glacier Kings in 6-3 loss to Cougars

Victoria takes first game of Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League final

Beating the Victoria Cougars is a tall task at best. But the job becomes much more difficult when you’re trying to do it from the penalty box.

The Comox Valley Glacier Kings (who won one of four regular season meetings with Victoria) already knew that, but it didn’t stop them from being their own worst enemy in Saturday night’s opener of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoff championships. After playing the Cougars even at 1-1 through the first period, the Yetis ran into penalty problems in the second and third frames. The Capital City Cats capitalized by going 3-for-12 on the power play en route to a 6-3 victory.

The Icemen will now have to go into road warrior mode, as four of the remaining six games in the best-of-seven series are in Victoria. As regular season champs, the Cougars should have hosted Game 1, but it was played in Courtenay due to a scheduling conflict with a curling event in Victoria. The Cougars host Game 2 tonight (March 26) and Game 3 Thursday. Game 4 goes Saturday, March 30 in Courtenay with puck drop 7:30 p.m. at Comox Valley Sports Centre Arena No. 1.

Much to the delight of a standing-room-only crowd at the Sports Centre on March 23, the Glacier Kings held the VIJHL’s best offence to just six shots on goal in the opening period. But a string of six straight penalties in the second stanza allowed the visitors to blow the game open with four unanswered goals, two coming with the man advantage.

After firing 10 shots at Evan Roch in the first frame, the Icemen mustered only 11 over the final two periods. Michael Hails, who took the loss, was replaced by Bryce DiRocco at 18:38 of the second after the Cougars had opened a 5-1 lead but was back between the pipes to start the third. Victoria outshot Comox Valley 30-21 on the game.

Game first star Sam Rice led the Cougars with a hat trick while second star Nathan Chen-Mack’s two-point performance (1g, 1a) earned him second star. Third star Michael Pond had two points (1a, 1a) for the Glacier Kings as did teammate Jack Kennelly. Brandon Halls had the other Yetis’ goal, a shorthanded effort with 22 seconds left in the game.

“Our guys deserved a different fate tonight,” said Glacier Kings’ head coach Bill Rotheisler. When asked about his team’s play in the second, Rotheisler said, “I don’t think much has to be said, that everybody doesn’t already know. Opinions and hearsay is one thing, but anybody can go look at the official game sheet and see what the facts support. All I can do is reiterate and state that our guys played good enough to win tonight and our focus has to be on game two.”

ICE CHIPS While the beleaguered Glacier Kings’ penalty killers were busy, the Cougars were an efficient 3-for-3 on their PK … the visitors were late returning to the ice for the second period and incurred a delay of game penalty … future games in the VIJHL final go March 30 in Courtenay and if needed March 31 in Victoria, April 2 in Courtenay and April 3 in Victoria … joining the host Glacier Kings and VIJHL reps Victoria at the April  11-14 Cyclone Taylor Cup (B.C. Jr. B Provincial championships) will be KIJHL champs North Okanagan Knights, who eliminated the Osoyoos Coyotes in seven games … the Richmond Sockeyes are a win away from punching their ticket to the provincials as they lead the PJHL final 3-0 over the Aldergrove Kodiaks …

– with a file from the Comox Valley Glacier Kings

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