Colin Blake’s unassisted goal at 8:49 of overtime gave the Campbell River Storm a 3-2 victory over the Victoria Cougars in game one of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League Final played Sunday afternoon in the provincial capital.
Blake took advantage of a botched defensive play in front of the Victoria net, pounced on a loose puck and rifled a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of surprised Cougar’s goaltender Grant Payne.
“Welsh attacked their defenceman and the puck just came to my stick – I turned around and shot it on net,” said the 18-year-old left winger, “It’s definitely the biggest goal of my hockey career.
The Storm rallied from a 2-1 third period deficit to send the game to overtime, and it was a pair of former Tyees that combined for the tying goal. Defenseman Andy Stevens found Dane Feeney all alone at the top of the face-off circle. The veteran centreman and former Cougar did the rest, blasting a one-timer past Payne, who had no chance.
The two teams traded goals during an evenly played first period. Rookie Kobe Oishi opened the scoring for Campbell River just past the two minute mark, only to have Lane Van de Wetering tie it seven minutes later on a Victoria power play.
After a scoreless second, defenseman Jake Stotz gave the Cougar’s their first lead of the game, ripping a point shot past Storm goalie Riley Welyk at 9:52 of the third.
Final shots on goal favoured Victoria, 28-22.
“Anytime you can come down to this rink (Victoria) and emerge with a win, you have to be happy,” said Storm head coach Lee Stone, “The thing is, you can’t get too high or too low in a series like this, you have to keep an even keel. I don’t think we played our played our ‘A’ game today, but we kept Sam McMullen off the score sheet, and that’s one of the few times this season that’s happened.”
Storm captain Jordan Rauser believes it’s important for his team to take the series one game at a time.
“It’s incredibly fast hockey and very physical. We know they’re a team that likes to finish all their checks and we have to do exactly the same. It’s going to be a dog fight all the way.”
Game 2 in the best of 7 goes Tuesday night in Campbell River (result not available at press time), Game 3 is set for Thursday in Victoria, and Game 4 is back at Rod Brind’Amour Arena on Friday night. Game 5, if necessary, will be played Sunday in Victoria.
The Storm advanced to the final after eliminating the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Friday night. Colin Blake collected five points, including a pair of goals, and Gage Colpron (pictured) added a hat trick as Campbell River blew out Comox 9-3 in front of a packed house at The Brindy. The Storm took the series 4-1 and won their first North Division title since 2005-06.
Campbell River’s power play, which has sputtered during much of the playoffs, erupted for six goals in the contest. Will McNamara, Dane Feeney, Connor Logan, and Nathan Browne also scored for the Storm, which led 2-1 after the first period, and 6-2 after two.
“Full credit to Comox, they battled hard and really pushed us physically,” said Stone, “They taught us how to win a tough playoff series. It was nice to see our power play get hot and basically take over that last game.”