This season is shaping up to be one of the tightest VIJHL races in years. The Campbell River Storm, the Nanaimo Buccaneers and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings are separated by just two points in the standings.
Friday’s match-up between Campbell River and Nanaimo was expected to be a tight battle. After losing the season opener, 7-0, the Buccaneers had handed the Storm a pair of losses, including a hard fought 2-1 double-overtime drama at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Following that game, in the Nanaimo press, comments attributed to Buccaneers general manager and head coach, Dan Lemmon, indicated that when the going gets tough and physical the Storm were reluctant to be first on pucks.
The scene was set for two very talented teams battling for first place.
An untimely penalty for too many men on the ice led to the game’s first goal just 1:20 into the first period when Nanaimo’s Jake Calverley fired a point shot past a screened Billy Gorn.
Later in the period, however the league’s top goal scorer would add to his total to even the match.
At 12:19, Gage Colpron would score his 16th goal of the season on a great individual play. He would steal the puck in the neutral zone and then go for a skate getting around Nanaimo defenseman Tyler Graham, cutting across the goal mouth and beating Alex Orth. As Head Coach Lee Stone would say after the game, “the goal was typical Gage Colpron.”
“The second (period)was great,” Stone said. “I thought we got great puck movement, especially on the power play.
At 10:57 Colpron would once again steal the puck and set up Dylan McCann in front of the net to put the Storm in front 2-1.
Just over two minutes later, Kobe Oishi would make it a two goal game on the power play. After some good puck possession in the Nanaimo zone, Braeden Cyra, from behind the net, centred the puck to Oishi who rifled it past Orth.
Late in the game, Graham would get the Buccaneers to within one when he picked up his own rebound and chipped it past Gorn. Nanaimo would then pull their goalie for an extra attacker and Oishi would seal the deal with his second of the night with just 18 seconds left on the clock for a 4-2 final.
For Gorn, it was his second win between the pipes after coming to the Storm from the AJHL’s Bonnyville Pontiacs. He turned aside 27 shots and made some timely saves.
“We were really happy with that game,” Stone said, though he did express some concerns about the undisciplined penalties in the third; Campbell River spent half the frame shorthanded and relied on its league-leading penalty kill.
The captain, Colpron, was named first star with three points (1G, 2A), McCann (1G,1A) was the second star while defenseman Ryan Grills was given third star honours. For Nanaimo, Jordan Levesque and Trent Bell played hard but were limited to just a point each.
After the Comox Valley Glacier Kings edged the Victoria Cougars on Saturday, the North Division remains tight with the Storm in first with 22 points, the Glacier Kings next with 21 and the Buccaneers one point back in third.
Another tough opponent ahead for the Red and Black this coming Friday when they they host the Victoria Cougars.