Campbell River Storm still in first place

The Campbell River Storm continue to hold down top spot in the overall Vancouver Junior Hockey League standings

The Campbell River Storm continue to hold down top spot in the overall Vancouver Junior Hockey League standings after a hectic weekend that featured three games in three nights.

Campbell River is currently three points ahead of Victoria; however the Cougars have two games in hand.

The teams will likely battle down to the wire, setting up a potential showdown when they meet for the final time this season, Friday, Feb. 13 at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.

The Storm kicked off their busy weekend by thumping the Cougars 5-1 Thursday night in Victoria. Josiah Friesen, playing only his second game since returning from a broken wrist, opened the scoring with a key short-handed goal.

“That was exciting,” said the veteran forward. “I just wanted to stir something up, get at least a chance, and I managed to beat their defenceman to the puck, made a move out of the corner, and went hard to the net.”

Dane Feeney tallied twice against his former team, while Gage Colpron and Will McNamara contributed singles. The Storm led 2-0 after the first period and 4-0 after two, while out-shooting the Cougars by a 35-17 margin.

Newly acquired goaltender Riley Welyk, filling in for injured Jesse Michel, was solid in his Campbell River debut.

“With Michel’s injury I knew there was a possibility of me starting,” said 17-year-old Welyk, who came over from the Westshore Wolves at the trade deadline. “So I was preparing for it leading up to the game and was confident going in there.”

Storm head coach Lee Stone felt his squad played a strong, smart game, the kind needed to win on the road.

“That was a great game for us, from top to bottom,” he said. “We played disciplined, fast hockey. It was arguably our best effort of the season.”

The Storm returned home Saturday night and blew out the last place Oceanside Generals 14-2. Colpron led the way with seven points, Connor Logan had six, and rookie Tyler Welsh posted five. Even the defencemen got in on the act as Trent Johnson scored twice, and Ryan Grills snapped home his first of the season.

Midget Tyees goaltender Nic Kirchner took over for Welyk in the third period and stopped five of six shots. It was his first taste of junior hockey.

“I wasn’t nervous, I knew I had a great group of guys in front of me,” said the 17-year-old. “The skating and passing is faster (than midget hockey) but I felt confident. That was definitely the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”

Unfortunately, the Storm failed to carry the momentum with them to Nanaimo Saturday night and lost 7-4. The Buccaneers jumped out to a 4-0 second period lead and managed to hold on despite a furious Storm comeback. Two goals by Feeney, along with singles from Logan and defenceman Trevor Bottomley cut the advantage to 5-4 but that was as close as the Storm would get. There was no rest for Stone, his coaching staff, or five of his players as they participated in the VIJHL All-Star Game Sunday afternoon in the Comox Valley. The Storm was represented by defencemen Jordan Rauser and Nathan Browne, and forwards Dane Feeney, Michael Olson, and Brendan Enns.  The North defeated the South 6-4, with Feeney notching the final goal.