The VIJHL title, since 2011, has either gone to the Campbell River Storm or their southern rivals, the Victoria Cougars.
Tuesday night at the Brind’Amour Arena, the two teams faced off once again in the opener for the league finals. That might explain why the hosts had no trouble getting pumped for the game.
“Any game against the Cougars here for the Storm, if you can’t get up for that, then there must be something wrong with you,” Storm coach Mike Wilson said. “The Storm and the Cougars have a bit of a history together. I would consider them definitely one of our biggest rivals. This time of year there’s no team we’d rather be facing off against. It should be a real good series.”
The two teams spent the first part of the first period feeling each other out, but the pace picked up quickly. The pace was fast, but there were few scoring opportunities until the Storm converted a power play midway through the first, but the goal was immediately waved off.
A few minutes later, the Storm’s Pearce Messer forced a turnover at the blue line, and on the ensuing breakaway, beat Cougar goalie Owen Sikkes to get Campbell River on the scoreboard at the 13:29 mark. Still after one period, shots stood at six apiece.
The second period was when Campbell River took over for good, out-shooting Victoria 10-3. Three minutes in, defenceman Kyle Jennings rushed into the slot and fired in a pass for the team’s second goal. Damon Porter and Mike Dyck drew assists on the play.
Tuesday night was a solid effort all-round, especially from the line with Darren Hards and Owen Christensen, who each had a goal, and Davis Frank, who returned following an injury to add two assists.
— Campbell River Storm (@CR_STORM) March 27, 2019
“We got Davis Frank back in the lineup, and that was a nice addition to that line,” Wilson said. “He definitely adds a lot of energy. I think Hards and Christensen definitely benefited from that energy tonight.”
Hards also assisted on Christensen’s goal and was picked the game’s first star.
Victoria tried to apply more pressure in the third and out-shot Campbell River 8-7 but generated few real chances, as the Storm were able to prevent the Cougars from holding the offensive zone for any long stretches. The defence as a whole was solid and Storm keeper Aaron de Kok turned aside all 23 shots for the 4-0 shutout win. He was picked second star, while Porter, with two assists, was the third star.
Wilson was happy with the effort from all four lines and all the defence and also credited de Kok for ”shutting the door” against the Cougars.
The teams play games three and four in a home-and-home that starts in Victoria Thursday before returning to Campbell River Friday. Game four is set for Sunday afternoon in Victoria.
With the Storm hosting next month’s Cyclone Taylor Cup, both teams already have a space reserved in the four-team tournament. The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League finals start Friday night with the Revelstoke Grizzlies and the Kimberley Dynamiters playing a best-of-seven series. Last week, the North Vancouver Wolf Pack claimed the Pacific Junior Hockey League title with a four-game sweep over the Langley Trappers. The Cyclone Taylor Cup takes place here April 11 to 14.