NANAIMO — The Saanich Braves defeated the Buccanners 4-2 Thursday night at the Nanaimo Ice Centre, halting the Bucs' six-game winning streak.
Brandon Fushimi potted two goals, while Kyle Mace and Dylan McCabe netted the others to lift Saanich (20-9-1-2) past Nanaimo (19-13).
The Braves scored the game's first two goals just 15 seconds apart in the opening period. Jacob Carr scored late in the first period for the Bucs, while captain Chad Bell tied things up in the second period by roofing a shot to the top corner. That's as close as the Bucs would get, as Fushimi netted a pair of third period goals for the visitors.
“It would have been nice to come into the break with a win, but this is a learning lesson, this is something every team needs to have to get better and we'll get better from it,” said Buccaneers' Head Coach Dan Lemmon.
It was a chippy and emotional game featuring a fight, numerous post-whistle scrums and 78 penalty minutes. With the animosity metre amped-up, Coach Lemmon feels his club lost its focus as the game wore on.
“They got the better of us,” said Lemmon. “They're an older team, they've been through some wars, they've been through those types of games. We didn't react the best in the third.”
The Bucs, already thin at the centre position with Danny Pion not dressed, lost difference-maker Cam Nickerson who was ejected for a fight late in the second period.
Braves' netminder Riley Mathieson was rock-solid, turning aside 31 shots, which included several highlight reel saves. John Hawthorne made 24 saves in a losing effort. The Bucs did manage to keep the league's most dominant player and scoring leader, Nick Guerra, off the scoresheet. The Bucs were physical and tightly checked the former Nanaimo Clipper, who has an astounding 32 goals and 54 points in 29 games.
The Buccaneers are now 0-11 when trailing after the first period. The Braves have won three straight games and will host Westshore on Friday night before VIJHL rinks go dark for the holiday break.
Despite the loss, December was a fantastic month for the Bucs, with the Swordsmen racking up a 6-1 record, while outscoring their opposition 34-16. Nanaimo's record is 14-4 since Oct. 21.
The Buccaneers recognized captain Chad Bell during a pre-game ceremony for playing 200 games with Nanaimo. The Port McNeill product, 20, has suited up for 202 regular season contests with Nanaimo's Junior 'B' hockey club, amassing 51 goals, 57 assists and 108 points.
The Bucs play in an alumni game on Thursday, Dec. 29 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre at 7:15 p.m. Admission for the game, involving current and past Bucs' players, is $5. Funds raised support the Vancouver Island Vision hockey club.
Nanaimo's next regular season game is on Thurdsay, Jan. 5. versus the visiting Comox Valley Glacier Kings.