By Mark Berry
The VIJHL Championship series has become as Storm Head Coach, Lee Stone, predicted at the onset, predicated on momentum.
The Victoria Cougars and the Campbell River Storm are evenly matched teams that had seen 10 of their last 11 playoff games decided by one goal. The play has been fast, hard-hitting and exciting.
On Sunday afternoon, that trend changed when the Cougars pounced on the Storm 5-1 to take a 3-2 series lead. According to Storm Head Coach, Lee Stone, “There no question when you give up a breakaway 21 seconds into the game to a guy (Looysen) that’s got a hundred points this season it’s probably not how you want to start.”
Former Campbell River Minor Hockey product, John Kretzschmar scored a pair for the Cougars while fellow Tyee Dom Kolbeins, Ryan Carson and Nathan Looysen chipped in singles. Gage Colpron notched the lone Campbell River marker in the third period.
Anthony Ciurro has been exceptional since being pulled early in Game 3 on Thursday. In Games 4 and 5, both Victoria wins, he stopped 75 of 78 shots.
During the regular season, the Campbell River Storm were one of the most disciplined teams in the VIJHL but that hasn’t been the case in the Finals. Penalties and some waved off goals, including one on Sunday, has led to much frustration among Storm fans. Stone articulated the sentiment of many supporters following Game 5, “I think the officiating is not where it needs to be, it’s not to the standard of the VIJHL Finals. I can say that because I watched 4 games in the stands. It’s getting pretty frustrating.”
It was Stone’s first game behind the bench in the wake of a 4 game suspension, stemming from an incident in the North Divisional Final. Following the March 11 game, during the customary on-ice handshakes, he greeted and talked with some Nanaimo players who had been ejected. That incident netted him a one–game suspension which covered Game 1 of this series. He picked up three more games when he talked with his players too soon after that game.
The Storm and the Cougars report back to Rod Brind’Amour Arena on Tuesday for Game 6.
Both teams are guaranteed a spot in the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Victoria starting April 7. They will be joined by the Mission City Outlaws of the Pacific league (PJHL) and the winner of the Kimberley Dynamiters and 100 Mile House Wrangler series in the KIJHL.