For the first round of the Storm’s so-called ‘second’ season, Campbell River coach Mike Wilson would just like to get a full lineup.
Oh, and focus on how to keep or win back momentum – the game within the game – during the playoffs.
“For us, a key thing is playing puck possession hockey,” he said.
This week, on Tuesday and Friday, the Storm play host to the Peninsula Panthers, the last-place team in the South, but Wilson is not taking anything for granted.
“They’re a hard-working team. They’re gritty,” he said.
The coach describes the opponents as a team that will grind it out to win a game, so he wants to make sure the Storm does not allow the Panthers to be more physical through the first-round series.
Another challenge for the Storm has been missing some players.
“Right now, we’ve been banged up,” Wilson said. “We’re getting pretty close to healthy.”
As well, a few players have been seconded by other Junior A teams. Pearce Messer has been playing with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles, while local product Davis Frank has been in the lineup for the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs.
Even with some gaps in the lineup, the team displays a well-balanced attack. Moreover, if it’s defence that wins championships, as some maintain, the Storm are in a good position. After Saturday’s finale against the Westshore Wolves, the Storm finished the season with the league’s lowest-ever goals against, 92 over 48 games, compared with last year’s record-setting total of 96.
Saturday’s tilt with Westshore also marked the 100th game with the Storm for veteran Reid Wheeldon.
“I know he’s battled a lot of injuries,” Wilson said. “I’ve got all the respect in the world for him.”
In the first period, Damon Porter was hooked on a breakaway and scored on the penalty shot, while Darren Hards added a goal early in the second. The regular season finale was uneven though, with a breakdown midway through the second that saw Westshore tie it up, then take the lead mere seconds later en route to a 3-2 win for the visitors.
If the Saturday makeup game a bit of a let-down, having no impact on the standings for Campbell River, the team fared better in its regularly scheduled final games. On Thursday night in Nanaimo, the Storm blanked the Bucs 2-0, with goals from Liam Nijhoff and Noah Fladager. Aaron de Kok posted the shutout.
On Friday at home, the Storm easily won over Comox Valley 7-1, with Mike Dyck notching a hat trick. Nijhoff, Josh Pederson, Damon Kramer and Owen Christensen each had goals, and all but four Storm players either had an assist or goal on the night.
The first round playoff series with Peninsula kicks off Tuesday night and resumes in Campbell River on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The series switches to North Saanich on Sunday and Monday when Peninsula hosts games three and four. If necessary, games five will take place in Campbell River on March 5, game six in North Saanich on March 8 and game seven in Campbell River on March 9.
(Note: This story went to press before results from Tuesday’s night first game.)