The Campbell River Storm are tied for first in the north after splitting their weekend games at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
The Storm beat the Nanaimo Buccaneers 4-3 Friday night and fell to the Peninsula Panthers 5-2 on Saturday.
It’s still early in the year, with the Storm having faced four teams in this regular season, but coach Lee Stone feels the weekend games were “a step up in competition.”
Local goalie Jayce Hudak got his first start and win in net Friday night and the Storm took an early lead with a power play goal 2:14 into the game. Josh Pederson got his third goal of the year with Owen Christensen and Kyle Jennings getting the assist.
Nanaimo tied it up 8:53 into the second frame with a power play goal while Keenan Toal was in the box.
Toal would score the go-ahead goal a few minutes later with Christensen and Keagen Abbott picking up the assist.
The Buccs tied things up less than a minute later and would go up 3-2 with just over three minutes left in the period while Scott Arbuckle was in the box.
The Storm came out in the third period ready to play. Brian Majic, another local player, picked up his third goal of the year with Noah Fladager and Jory Swanson credited with the assist.
Ten seconds later, Pederson would seal the game for the Storm with an unassisted goal.
“Nanaimo is a strong division rival,” said Stone. “I don’t think we gave up a whole heck of a lot against them.”
Saturday’s home match-up against the Peninsula Panthers pitted two unbeaten teams against each other.
The first period went scoreless and the Storm drew first blood mid-way through the second frame.
Quinn Messer got the first goal of his VIJHL career as Majic picked up another assist.
Jake Boxer scored less than a minute later to put the Storm up 2-0. PJ Donnelly and Clayton Bono were credited with the assist.
Stone said there was almost a “collective sigh of relief” on the bench. But the Storm’s lead didn’t last long.
Hunter Jensen got the Panthers within one at 16:21 in the second period. Tanner Wort and Thomas Spink would add two more before the frame closed.
Hoping to get the team amped up, Stone started Knute Loe, replacing Rob Michetti in net.
The Panthers would score two more goals in the third period to win 5-2.
“The boys didn’t bounce back the way we hoped they would,” said Stone. “We’re a young team and I think there’s some things we still need to learn.”
Peninsula head coach Brad Tippett said he had the game against Campbell River circled on the calendar.
“Both teams coming in undefeated only added to the intensity. I thought both teams played with passion and fire,” he said. “We were focused and committed – winning races to the puck, blocking shots and back-checking. Most importantly, we responded from being behind for the first time and had our best third period of the year.”
Peninsula is now the only undefeated team in the league. They won’t meet the Storm again until mid-October at the Panorama Recreation Centre.
Campbell River, which started the season with five home games will hit the road after hosting the Oceanside Generals this Friday at the Brindy.
Stone is expecting the match-up to be a tough one. Oceanside and Campbell River are tied for first in the north.
“Oceanside is a hardworking team that wants to come in here and beat us,” said Stone. He said it could be the most competitive game of the season so far.
The team will go on its first road trip to face the Comox Valley Glacier Kings Saturday night.
“We’ve played so many games at home. I think the boys are excited to get on the bus,” said Stone.
This morning, the Storm announced a new addition to the defence from Manitoba.
Grady Franklin spent last season with the Brandon Wheat Kings Midget AAA squad and won the province’s championship.
“He’s used to playing in a program where the expectation is to win,” said Stone.
The Storm face the Oceanside Generals Friday at 7:30 p.m.