The battle for top spot in the VIJHL remains a tight one heading into December, with the Campbell River Storm and the Nanaimo Buccaneers well clear of the rest of the pack.
But last weekend the Storm played host to the Kerry Park Islanders at Rod Brind’Amour Arena and actually had a little trouble with the last-place team in the South Division.
Neither team could seem to get anything going through 20 minutes of play, heading to the dressing room for the first intermission in a scoreless tie. In fact, it took until the mid-point of the second period for anyone to get on the scoreboard when the Storm’s Darren Hards put away his 13th goal of the year from Dawson Frank and Aiden Sutherland on the Storm powerplay.
Hards has been on something of a tear of late. Since the Storm’s Oct. 21 game at home against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, Hards has had his number on the scoresheet in nine consecutive games for a total of 17 points, including a hat trick and adding an assist in front of the home crowd the last time the Glacier Kings came to town, earning him first star honours. He currently sits in fourth place league wide in scoring with 31 points.
Frank would manage to get the home team up by two just 2:44 into the third period, but the Islanders’ Evan Easton would get that goal back three minutes later after capitalizing on the Islanders’ fifth powerplay opportunity of the night when the Storm’s Reid Linsday went to the box for hooking.
Thankfully, Storm captain Dylan McCann would find the empty net after the Islanders called goaltender Chase Anderson to the bench for an extra attacker, and the game would end 3-1.
The Storm came out of the weekend just one point up on Nanaimo and atop the league after Nanaimo kept pace with a win over the Glacier Kings.
But apparently head coach and general manager Lee Stone wants more, because on Tuesday he got involved in a three-way trade with the Glacier Kings and the Abbotsford Pilots of the Pacific Junior Hockey League, which sees the Storm acquire 20-year-old forward Jake McKenzie.
McKenzie, a Campbell River product, is on his way home after being with the Glacier Kings for three years – serving two of those as captain – averaging almost a point per game over his 118 games with the team.
“Jake is the type of player that will do anything for the team,” Stone says. “He makes an already deep forward group even deeper.”
The deal sees Ryan MacDonald sent off to Abbotsford, where he is sure to have a huge impact, Stone says.
“Abbotsford is getting a player that has captain abilities – a player that competes for every inch of ice every time he’s on the ice,” Stone says, calling MacDonald, “an unbelievable player and an even better person. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know Ryan on and off the ice and we wish him the very best of luck.”
The Storm take on the Oceanside Generals at the Brindy tonight (Friday, Dec. 1) before making the short drive down to the Comox Valley to take on the Glacier Kings tomorrow. Puck drop for both games is 7:30 p.m.