It’s finally here.
The most anticipated game of the regular season takes place tonight at Rod Brind’Amour Arena as the two top teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League square off for all the marbles.
The Campbell River Storm and Victoria Cougars are currently separated by a single point in the overall VIJHL standings. The winner of tonight’s contest, set for 7:30 p.m., very likely secures home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
“There’s no question this is a game we’ve had circled on our calendar for a long time,” says Storm head coach Lee Stone. “We’ve had good success against Victoria so far this year and we plan to keep that way.”
The Storm has won two of three previous meetings this season by scores of 5-1 and 8-3. The Cougars’ lone victory was a 4-3 overtime triumph on December 14 in the provincial capital.
Victoria is led by 20-year-old centreman Sam McMullen, who leads the league in scoring and has a shot at a 100 point season. The Storm, meanwhile, have five players in the top ten, including the VIJHL’s premier sniper in right winger Gage Colpron who bagged his 40th goal of the campaign last weekend.
Defenceman Thor Rosback is expected to return to the Storm line-up after serving a two game suspension. However, the locals will be without a pair of physical forwards. Gavin Rauser could be out for up to four weeks with a lower body injury, while Brendan Enns serves the second of a four game suspension for fighting.
Rookie goaltender Riley Welyk will make his tenth straight start in goal for Campbell River. His personal record now stands at 9-1 since joining the club last month.
The Storm wraps up the regular season Saturday night in Comox Valley against the Glacier Kings, and expects to open the playoffs at home on Wednesday night (Feb. 18) against either the Peninsula Panthers or the Oceanside Generals.