Sports

Branzsen’s overtime goal a wild finish to wild card

A wild scramble results in front of the Campbell River net, with the Islanders’ Eric Mansueti, Desmond Bast and company battling to get to the puck. Campbell River won 7-5 Thursday, but the Islanders took the important wild card rematch. - Andrew Leong
A wild scramble results in front of the Campbell River net, with the Islanders’ Eric Mansueti, Desmond Bast and company battling to get to the puck. Campbell River won 7-5 Thursday, but the Islanders took the important wild card rematch.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

A little pain was well worth the gain for the Kerry Park Islanders.

Game hero Tylor Branzsen, who scored the winning goal in overtime to propel the team into the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs, and set-up man Corey Peterson both came out of the celebratory scrum banged up, but weren’t complaining.

“I got a little shiner from it and Corey chipped his tooth — a trip to the dentist for him,’’ said Branzsen of the drawbacks to the hoopla that ensued after the Islanders beat the Campbell River Storm 4-3 in a wild card game Sunday at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Arena for the league’s final playoff spot.

Islanders’ owner Mark Osmond didn’t get a good look at the goal, but he didn’t care.

“I was just praying someone was going to bash it in,’’ he said.

The odds were stacked against the Islanders in many ways. They were without offensive standouts Alex Milligan and Braeden Cross and defenceman Anthony Gilbert and were also playing their fourth game in as many days.

But they overcame it all to salvage something from a season that might have otherwise been lost.

“I’m happy for the boys,’’ said Osmond. “They went through a lot of adversity this year and they’ve bought into (coach) Dale (Purinton’s) system.’’

Branzsen was an unlikely candidate to decide the issue. He suffered a concussion in January and only returned to play Thursday, scoring a goal in a previous 7-5 loss to Campbell River, and Friday before sitting out Saturday again. But he was there when it mattered most Sunday.

“It was a big goal, a big win,’’ conceded Branzsen.

There was only 1:39 left in the 10-minute overtime when Branzsen scored.

“It was a line change so I skated down the ice and went right for the net and yelled for the pass and put her in,’’ he said.

It was a great game, with players on both sides putting it all on the line in the sudden-death format.

“I’m sure the younger guys were pretty nervous,’’ said Branzsen. “I wasn’t too nervous. It was a do-or-die game. We had to give everything we got.’’

The Islanders led 2-0 and 3-2 but the Storm rallied both times to tie it. Branzsen’s winner came just two seconds after Campbell River’s Tyson Fair returned from the penalty box.

The Islanders lost 3-2 at Peninsula Friday and beat Oceanside 6-3 Saturday in their regular-season finales.

Osmond confirmed the first playoff date at Kerry Park against the Nanaimo Buccaneers Saturday at 7:30 p.m. after games in Nanaimo Tuesday and Thursday.

“We can’t underestimate them, but we beat them 4-0 last time,’’ said Branzsen. “That game was a little confidence going in.’’

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