Christian Brant drives into the offensive zone during the Campbell River Storm’s exhibition game against the North Van Wolf Pack at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena.

Stevens’ hat trick kicks off Storm weekend split

Rookie defenseman Andy Stevens notched a hat-trick as the Campbell River Storm rallied late for a 5-4 victory

The Campbell River Storm wrapped up their brief pre-season schedule over the weekend with a pair of tight games against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack.

Saturday night before a boisterous crowd of over 500 at Rod Brind’Amour Arena, rookie defenseman Andy Stevens notched a hat-trick as the Storm rallied late for a 5-4 victory.

An even larger crowd gathered for the rematch on Sunday only to see the Wolf Pack extract their revenge with a 1-0 triumph.

Both teams used the opportunity to spotlight their younger player and Storm head coach Lee Stone liked what he saw.

“The entire coaching staff came away very impressed with the young talent we have this season and beyond,” he said, “It’s also very exciting to have so many local guys in our lineup and watch them strive the way they are.”

The Storm has made a conscience effort to recruit more Campbell River players and the strategy appears to be paying dividends.

“Three local 15-year-olds played for us this weekend (Brett Stapley, Dawson Frank, and Doug Campbell) along with several more 16 and 17-year olds,” said Stone. “Our lineup’s age closer resembled a Midget team and yet we played two exceptional games and likely would have won both if not for North Vancouver’s strong goaltending on Sunday.”

Some of the rookies may have been feeling butterflies in the opener Saturday night as the Storm fell behind 2-0 early in the first period.  However, defenseman Joe Gage set up Colin Blake to make it 2-1, and Stevens evened the score a short time later, converting an excellent pass by Joe Surgenor.

It was deja vu to start the second as North Vancouver restored their two goal lead and appeared poised to put the game away.

But Storm net minder Joey Karrer made a key save on a breakaway to help turn the momentum.   With nine seconds remaining in the period Stevens notched his second of the contest, a power play marker which closed the gap to 4-3.

The two teams traded scoring chances throughout the third, and the Storm managed to kill off a four minute high-sticking penalty.

Campbell River finally tied it with just over a minute remaining as Stevens fired a point shot that found its way through a maze of bodies and into the net.

“That’s my first hat-trick since Peewee,” said the former Tyee, “It was nice to get it at home where I played most of my minor hockey.”

Veteran forward Gage Colpron then completed the comeback in dramatic style, bursting around the Wolf Pack defense and scoring the winner with just 58 seconds remaining.

Unfortunately, the Storm didn’t have the same scoring touch on Sunday despite outshooting the Wolf Pack 34-12.  North Vancouver goaltenders Sergio Del Linz and Trevor Withers combined for the shut out, while Mitch Crisanti’s first period marker stood up as the game winner.

The Storm opens the regular season this Friday night against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings.  Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.