The Campbell River Storm is heading to the VIJHL semifinals against the Saanich Braves after winning 3-0 in Sunday’s elimination game against the Peninsula Panthers.
It was a cliffhanger seven-game playoff series. The Storm, which dominated the league during the regular season, came close to elimination by a resurgent Panthers team.
Mike Wilson, who took over coaching duties for the team just weeks before the playoffs began, said he was proud of the team as they celebrated the victory.
“It was a real character victory in the series,” Wilson said. “We didn’t start off the series the way we would’ve really liked, but we definitely finished the way we liked.”
The Storm has a younger roster that’s been learning about playoff hockey during a tough round, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of younger guys that might not have known what it takes in playoffs,” he said. “This series taught us what it’s gonna take and we’ll look to use that in the next series.”
During Sunday night’s game, which took place on home ice, Jackson Dyke scored on an assist from Darren Hards in the first period.
There were no more goals until late in the third period, when Hards tipped the puck past Panthers goalie Connor McKillop on an assist from Fladager with less than six minutes left in play.
The Storm was shorthanded when Noah Fladager scored unassisted towards the end of the third period, making victory all but assured for Campbell River.
Shots on goal were almost equal at 23-24 in favour of Campbell River. Storm goalie Aaron de Kok, who received the home star, received an enthusiastic applause for his shutout victory.
It followed a tough series. Of the first four games, the Panthers won three, a surprising feat for the lowest-seeded team in the South Division. The North Saanich team ended the regular season with 55 points, compared to 109 for the Storm.
The Storm thanked the upstart Panthers for “an incredible series” in a tweet on Monday morning, calling the rival club “a well coached team of dedicated young men that took us to the brink.”
We would like to thank the @ppanthersvijhl for an incredible series. This was a well coached team of dedicated young men that took us to the brink. Based on what we saw, the Panthers have a very bright future.
— Campbell River Storm (@CR_STORM) March 11, 2019
As of Monday afternoon, the schedule for the upcoming playoff series between the Storm and the Saanich Braves hadn’t been announced. Watch campbellrivermirror.com for more playoff coverage in the coming days.