Buccaneers clinch playoff spot

Nanimo Buccaneers Collin Mathieson, left, checks Victoria Cougars Jake Daughtry during a game at Archie Browning Sports Centre Sunday. The visitors dropped a 7-4 decision. - Black Press photo
Nanimo Buccaneers Collin Mathieson, left, checks Victoria Cougars Jake Daughtry during a game at Archie Browning Sports Centre Sunday. The visitors dropped a 7-4 decision.
— image credit: Black Press photo

It’s one goal accomplished and more to go for the Nanaimo Buccaneers.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League expansion team clinched a North Island Division playoff position, though where they finish in the standings is still up in the air.

“Our goal was to make the post season, give our young club the experience and it looks like we’re going down that road so that’s great,” said coach Brad Knight. “But first and second place are still up for grabs and with the playoffs, there’s potentially another 30 games to play so we still have lots of work to do.”

The Bucs split weekend action against South Island Division teams, defeating the Peninsula Panthers 7-4 Friday at Panorama Recreation Centre before falling 7-2 to the No. 1 Victoria Cougars Sunday at Archie Browning Arena.

Nanaimo went up 1-0 in the first period against Peninsula and scored three goals in each the second and third periods.

Riel Gibson led the attack with three goals, while Lee Orpen added two with singles from Beau Blanaru and Lyndon Eddy. Riley Medves earned the win in goal.

“We’d been a little snake bitten going into that game and it was nice to the kids break out and score on their opportunities,” said Knight. “Up until then, we had been outshooting our opponents two-to-one but barely scraping by with a  couple goals.”

The coach said Blanaru has been playing his best hockey for the Buccaneers right now.

“He’s been one of our best players since Christmas,” he said.

Blanaru, Eddy, Lucas Franassen and Derian Hamilton scored Sunday against the Cougars, Daniel Foglietta added three assists and Cameron Large took the loss in net.

Nanaimo was up 3-1 after one period, but allowed four goals in the second period and never seemed to recover.

Knight said it was disappointing to let the lead get away, but considering the sickness and injuries the team is going through, he thought the Bucs handled themselves well.

“We’re a young club and my two best defencemen shouldn’t have been playing they were so sick and we lost another to a concussion,” he said. “Did we learn something from letting a lead slip away? Yes. Was it surprising? No.”

The coach would like to see his squad cut down on the penalties  as the Cougars went four-for-10 on the man advantage.

“Victoria probably scores 80 per cent of its goals on the power play. Even strength, that teams doesn’t scare me at all, but they just get so many odd-man situations,” he said. “You can only kill so many power plays and only so many in a row.

“I don’t know if it’s style of play, but for whatever reason, it seems when you go into that rink, you don’t come out on the positive side of the penalties.”

The Buccaneers (24-16-3) return to action Thursday (Jan. 31) against the Saanich Braves at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

The Braves (26-13-3) sit second in the South Island and knight expects a good game.

“Saanich has a lot of experience with a  veteran group that has a tremendous ability to score goals,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for them, but we’ll be ready to battle them.”

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