Campbell River Storm coach and general manager Lee Stone seems pleased with his team’s start to the 2022-23 VIJHL season, which has them at 5-4 through nine games and in a tie for second place position in the North Division.
After the way the team finished last year’s playoffs, battling back and forth with Port Alberni Bombers then going down four straight to Oceanside Generals, Stone said the team’s start will be beneficial in the long run as the grind of a long season wears on.
“We struggled with a bit of adversity toward the end of last year. I think its a good thing that we’re battling with wins and losses early on.”
There are contributing factors for the split start to the season.
“There were a lot of guys at Junior ‘A’ camps, but another thing is that our league is a lot better too,” Stone said.
After some early goaltending struggles, the team welcomed back VIJHL 2021-22 goaltender of the year Nick Peters. Peters was a force last year, going 28-1-3 with a sparkling 1.85 goals against average and .929 save percentage.
“We didn’t expect to get him back from Jr. A camp,” said Stone “Nick just needs to continue to be consistent. The toughest thing for a goalie is to be consistent. It’s impossible for him to be as good as he was a year ago.”
One thing the team is not lacking in is scoring. Having averaged a whopping four goals per contest thus far, Stone feels confident on the offensive side of the puck, with a solid group that includes veteran forwards Justin Gyori, Dylan Franklin and Kye Binoche.
“We had a couple guys that were snake bitten in the early going,” said Stone. “Dylan, Kye and Justin all scored their first goals this past weekend. As they get rolling, I certainly think goals will come easier for us as the season progresses. We don’t lack skill or talent.”
But the power play, at an 11 per cent conversion rate, Stone admits, could use a little work.
“Our power play has been lacking. We’re generally very strong in that department. In 5-on-5 situations, we score about the same as we normally do, but we need to improve our power play a bit.”
Still, there is a sense of optimism that the Storm can right the wrongs of an early playoff exit they had last year, and add a 12th league title to their trophy case .
“Compared to other leagues, there’s a lot of turnover,” Stone said “But, anytime you’re bringing back a core of eight or nine guys is an extremely solid core. We’ve got to accent the returnees with the very best players that we can find, and I think the transactions that we did make will help our team, no question, and make it better.”
The Storm play their next home game 7:30 Friday night, versus Lake Cowichan.