Nanaimo Buccaneers player Johnathan Speer has the puck knocked off his stick by Victoria Cougars opponent Mark Walton during Thursday's Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League game at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

Nanaimo Buccaneers player Johnathan Speer has the puck knocked off his stick by Victoria Cougars opponent Mark Walton during Thursday's Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League game at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

Nanaimo beats Victoria in battle of league’s best

The Nanaimo Buccaneers edged the Victoria Cougars 3-2 on Thursday night at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

The Nanaimo Buccaneers won an early season test of the best.

The city’s junior B hockey team edged the Victoria Cougars 3-2 on Thursday night at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

The Bucs (12-2) and the Cougs (12-1-0-1) lead the North Division and South Division, respectively, but hadn’t played each other until Thursday.

“Our kids won that for the North Division,” said Brad Knight, Buccaneers coach.

The visitors controlled the first period and led 1-0 at intermission, but the home team carried the bulk of the play over the last two periods.

“We started moving the puck quicker and getting on the forecheck … and playing offensive. We’re not playing not to lose, we’re playing to win,” said Garrett Dunlop, the game’s first star.

Nick White got Nanaimo on the board early in the second, scoring on a deke on a partial breakaway. The Cougars took back the lead late in the second on a rush, but the Bucs responded a minute and a half later as Dunlop stole the puck in the attacking zone and muscled and stickhandled his way through the opposition to score. Jordan Levesque banged home a rebound 30 seconds into the third period and that goal stood up as the winner. Ryan Waldhaus made 24 saves for the win.

Knight said his team adjusted its game Thursday and it worked.

“We got a little bit more north and south tonight,” said the coach. “We got in on the body and I thought everyone bought in and I thought guys played well.”

The Buccaneers celebrated like it was a big win, and they’ll just try to keep building on it.

“We’re going to keep playing our game, and that will win us games,” Dunlop said.

GAME ON … The Bucs have a week off before their next action Thursday (Oct. 24) when they host the last-placed Oceanside Generals at 7:15 p.m. at the NIC … The Buccaneers made a trade this week, sending defenceman Derian Hamilton to the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in exchange for future considerations.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com