The Lake Cowichan Kraken will miss the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs in their first year of existence.
The Kraken were edged out in a three-game set with their expansion cousins from Port Alberni last week, then lost to the Campbell River Storm on Monday in their last chance to salvage a postseason berth.
The Kraken controlled their own destiny going into the three games against the Port Alberni Bombers, needing to win two out of three to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
They got off to a bad start, however, when they were crushed 8-0 in the first game in Port Alberni last Wednesday. Alberni’s Callum Tung made 29 saves in the shutout, while Josh Robins stopped 22 of 27 over the first two periods before Brendan Wilson came in for the third and turned aside 19 of 22.
The Kraken prevailed 4-3 on Friday when the teams met again in Lake Cowichan. The game went back and forth through the first two periods before the Kraken pulled ahead in the third. Kellan Brienan finished with a goal and an assist, while Mitchell Billings, Anthony Wilson and Aiden Eddy also scored and Carter Anderson recorded three assists. Robins made 23 saves as the Kraken outshot the Bombers 29-25.
Going into the last of the three games on Sunday, the Kraken could have locked up a playoff spot with a win, while the Bombers needed a victory of their own and for the Kraken to lose to the Campbell River Storm on Monday. The Bombers did what they had to do, winning 5-3.
The Kraken were up 2-1 going into the third period, getting their first two goals from defenceman Ethan Toole — who scored his first VIJHL goal on his 18th birthday — and Brienan. The Bombers drew even with a shorthanded goal 32 seconds into the final frame, and then, after the Kraken failed to capitalize on a powerplay, the Bombers took a 3-2 lead with a powerplay goal of their own with 10:31 left to play.
Right at the midway point of the period, Lake Cowichan defenceman Ray Kelly took a hard hit, and while he was lying on the ice, fellow blueliner Ayden Baldo levelled Alberni forward Carson Steel. A melee broke out that resulted in a major penalty for Baldo and 10-minute misconducts for Baldo and Richard Bergman. The Bombers went up 4-2 a minute into the five-minute advantage, but Brienan cut the lead back to one goal with a shorthanded marker 21 seconds later.
Despite breaking even on the five-minute penalty, the Kraken couldn’t get any closer, and the Bombers added an empty-netter to seal the victory. Robins finished with 25 saves as Lake Cowichan outshot Port Alberni 40-29.
Down to their last chance on Monday, the Kraken needed to beat the Storm, who happened to be the league’s best team this season. Rowan Zapisocki opened the scoring for Lake Cowichan, but Campbell River responded with six straight before AP Kyler Smith potted the Kraken’s second of the night early in the third. Brienan added one more, but the gap was too wide for the Kraken to close.
Robins allowed six goals on 19 shots over 27 minutes and 25 seconds before he was replaced by Brendan Wilson, who stopped all 25 shots that he faced.
The Kraken finished their first season with 19 wins, 30 regulation losses, one overtime loss and one shootout loss for a .392 points percentage, narrowly behind the Bombers’ .410 percentage.