Special to the Mirror
The Victoria Cougars are the 2015-16 VIJHL Champions.
They captured the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy on Tuesday night at Rod Brind’Amour Arena, courtesy of a 6-3 victory.
It was a hotly contested series, with the Cougars taking the first game, the Storm taking the next two and the South Division Champions finishing off the series in six games.
Storm head coach Lee Stone was very complimentary of the Victoria team following the game.
“They’ve been this way ever since I showed up in this league,” he said. “They play structured, sound, disciplined hockey. It doesn’t matter what bodies they put out there, they get the job done.”
On Tuesday, Campbell River opened the scoring at 7:09 of the first period. Gage Colpron on the back check forced the puck off Nathan Looysen. He was able to feed Colin Blake, who in turn set up Alex Rosolowsky in the slot.
The Storm dominated the first period but Cougars netminder Anthony Ciurro had another strong performance, making great saves in traffic.
Almost six minutes into the second frame, Victoria got on the board with a controversial goal but it all depends who was watching the play. Brett Lervold circled the Campbell River goal and fired the puck past Riley Welyk. The net was clearly off as it was leaning at a 30-degree angle on the back of the Storm goalie. The question was, when did the net move? After much consultation, the on-ice officials pointed to centre ice and the game was tied at one.
“After that goal, I think we lulled and they started to come back with some momentum. Momentum is so important with these guys and we couldn’t keep it,” said Stone.
Cole Slaney scored later in the period for the home team but Cody Hodges replied.
After two periods, the two teams were tied at two.
The Cougars opened a two-goal lead early in the third on goals from Ryan Lawson and Looysen.
Late in the period, Josh Coblenz went end to end and put a blast in the top corner to bring Campbell River to within one.
The hopes for a comeback were short-lived. Ryan Carson struck on a rebound and Looysen found the empty net.
Despite Looysen’s two-points-per-game average in the playoffs, a former Campbell River Tyee, John Kretzschmar, was the best Victoria skater in this series. The Cougars captain accounted for five goals and three assists in the six games.
Dom Kolbeins also had a strong run, averaging a point per game.
The Storm will still have a chance to defend their Cyclone Taylor Cup title.
As host this year, the VIJHL has two entries in the provincial tournament. Campbell River will open the event in Esquimalt on Thursday, April 7 against the Mission City Outlaws of the PJHL. It’s a scheduled 4 p.m. puck drop.