It took 20 periods of hockey and 227 shots for the Campbell River Storm to finally breakdown the Nanaimo Buccaneers, win the North Division Finals and advance to the VIJHL Championship series.
Don’t let the final score fool you at 11-5, the Buccaneers gave the Storm everything they could handle and it was a seven-goal third period that finally opened the floodgates.
Trailing 5-4 heading into the final frame at Rod Brind’Amour Arena on Tuesday, the Storm increased the tempo. Colin Blake, coming out of the penalty box, put a backhand past Cedric LeSieur to tie the game. Then came a strange goal that fired up the home side.
At 5:10 of the period, on the power play, Ben Raffler fired a point shot that deflected off the stick of Darren Hards before it ricocheted off the skate of Carter Hikichi. From there the puck traveled skyway at least 15 feet, landing in the blue paint and somehow finding its way into the net.
Storm Head Coach Lee Stone said after the game, “That was a pretty emotional win, that goal took the wildest, weirdest, bounces I’ve ever seen. Carter Hikichi score. Safe to say there was someone watching over Carter with that bounce, pretty emotional for him.”
Hikichi lost his father in a tragic accident last June and the Storm wear a Japanese flag on the bottom of their jerseys to honour his memory.
Following that goal, the Storm seemed unstoppable scoring five more before the final buzzer.
Mitchell Williams, Colin Blake, Zach Erhardt and Brett Kinley each had two goal nights, while Logan Cursley, Ben Raffler and Hikichi added singles.
Until the final period of the series, this much anticipated match-up lived up to its billing. The Bucs were one of the hottest teams heading down the stretch giving the Storm fits in their last five regular season meetings. In the playoffs, the first four games were decided by a goal with three going to overtime.
For three Buccaneers, Nolan Richardson, Jake Calverley and Chad Bell the loss spelled the end of their Junior hockey careers.
“They came in four or five years ago and helped establish the VIJHL into an incredible developmental league feeding Junior A, Major Junior and college. We didn’t enjoy playing them (the 20’s) and there’s a reason for that. It’s been pretty cool to see them have successes and sad to see them go,” said Stone.
Buc’s Captain, Chad Bell, from Port McNeill, has committed to Chatham University in Pittsburgh next season, an NCAA Division 3 school.
The Storm will face the winner of the Kerry Park/Victoria series sometime next week.