A hockey season is a marathon, not a sprint.
That being said, the Campbell River Storm look to be in pretty good shape for the coming race if their first two exhibition games are anything to go by.
The Storm opened their preseason schedule this weekend at home against the Oceanside Generals and came out of the gates looking like they were already in mid-season form.
Head coach and general manager Lee Stone says he’s happy with how the team has come together and bought in to what they’re trying to do.
At least he was for the first 20 minutes.
“I thought it was a great start,” Stone said in an interview with Mark Berry for his online post-game show. “The boys were excited and we followed the system, we got pucks to the net and got traffic at the net, but when we came in after the first, I think we thought the game was over.
“We obviously still won the game, which is exciting, but I think for me, at the end of the day, what we were looking for tonight was just structure and the guys buying into the system and I thought in the second and third period we really struggled with that.”
Saturday’s first star was newcomer Jonathon Lee, who found the back of the net twice on the night. More importantly than that, however, is everything else he does for the team, Stone says.
“The thing with him is that, yes, he scored a couple of goals today, but for me, what I like best is what he does without the puck. He finished hard on the forecheck, he’s tenacious and he’s a guy that’s really going to lead by example for us this year. He’s a great room guy.
“The boys love him, he’s high energy, and I think he’s going to be a really great pick-up for us this season.”
Stone says he’s also been impressed thus far in the lead-up to the season with a now-familar face – 20-year-old Dylan McCann – who earned second-star honours in Saturday’s game against Oceanside.
“For a couple of years now, he’s kind of had to play second fiddle to some other guys who’ve been here, but now he knows this is his turn,” Stone says. “This is his team.”
And he’s a joy to watch on the ice, too.
“I love watching him when he turns up ice,” Stone says. “He’s so fast, and he dangles the D-man, and guys know who he is and they respect his speed. For him it’s just a matter of continuing to stay confident and having a game like that in the first game of the year – even though it’s only exhibition – I think was huge for him. I think he’s going to have a really, really big year for us this year.”
Third star of the night Saturday was goaltender Spencer Deakin, who, despite a first period played almost exclusively in their opponents’ end, stayed sharp thoughout the night, only allowing one goal – which was a strange bounce from behind the net near the end of the second period that sneaked in under his pad somehow.
“You gotta give Deaks a lot of credit,” Stone says, “because sitting there like that through the whole first period, that’s tough. And in the second, they came out ready to play and there were a few different saves where he kind of made them look easy, and they shouldn’t have been. As a D-man or a player on the team, it’s so calming to see your goaltender make a save like that and make it look pretty darn easy.”
The team then traveled down to the Comox Valley the following morning to take on the Glacier Kings.
The quick turnaround between games didn’t seem to have too much of an effect on the boys, as they came away with a 4-0 victory.
Your next chance to see the team is tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Brindy, when they again take on the Glacier Kings before heading down-Island for a rematch against Oceanside Friday night.