The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season hasn’t even started, but the bad blood is already flowing between the Campbell River Storm and the Oceanside Generals.
Braeden Cyra scored four goals and Kobe Oishi and Jacob Carr added a pair each Friday night as the Storm overwhelmed the visiting Generals 11-3 in a preseason exhibition game at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
The Generals roster was populated primarily by age 15-17 players, which Generals coach Brad Knight said was supposed to be the case for both teams.
“We were under the impression this game was supposed to be for the first-year players,” said Knight, noting the Storm roster was populated by age-20 season veterans like Cyra, Darryl Senholt and Gage Colpron, the team’s leading scorer from its run to the league, provincial and Western Canadian championships last season. “I’m a little disappointed they suited their full team. It wasn’t what we expected.”
A scheduled rematch in Campbell River Sunday was abruptly cancelled without explanation. It was announced in a one-sentence post on the Oceanside web page. In addition, the score for Friday’s exhibition was left conspicuously blank on the Generals’ results page, which lists the final results of the team’s other contests.
Storm coach and general manager Lee Stone had a different understanding of Friday’s exhibition.
“I said, ‘We have two (exhibition) games,’” Stone said of the clubs’ discussions prior to the series. “We’re gonna play our guys.’
“We still sat out eight of our regular guys. We’re just that good.”
The teams will find out just how good they both are with full rosters when the Generals return to Campbell River for their season opener Sept. 11.
“Oceanside didn’t have their full team (Friday),” Stone acknowledged. “They went younger. But they’ve definitely improved and I think they’re going to be one of the better teams in the league.”
Meanwhile, the Storm will open their season this Friday when they host Nanaimo following an unveiling of their banners for winning the 2014-15 VIJHL playoffs, the Cyclone Taylor Cup and the Keystone Cup.
After Friday’s exhibition win, the Storm held an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday night, part of a final weekend evaluation by Stone and his staff before making the final roster cuts.
Cole Slaney (22) lands a solid right on Liam Nijhoff during one of a series of bouts during the Campbell River Storm’s intrasquad scrimmage at Rod Brind’Amour Arena Sunday. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror
When Oceanside cancelled Sunday’s scheduled exhibition, the Storm played a second scrimmage game in that time slot.
“We’re looking at their coachability, their work ethic, and which guys are willing to do what it takes to win,” said Stone. “We run a difficult system, so our guys have to be skilled but also they need to be smart.”
In Friday’s exhibition, the Storm led just 2-1 midway through the first period, on goals by Cyra and Kenny Britton. But Cyra and Jacob Carr added goals later in the period for a 4-1 lead at first intermission.
Colpron got a goal and Cyra scored again in the second period to complete his hat trick as the Storm went up 6-1. Oceanside got one back on a tally by Jordan Bautista in the period, but Campbell River closed it out with a five-goal eruption in the third. Oishi got both his goals in the period and Carr, Cyra and Rhys Colpron added scores.
Afterward, Rhys and Gage Colpron posed together on the ice for photos following their first junior game as teammates.
“It was awesome watching these guys” win the Keystone Cup last season, Rhys Colpron said. “It’s a great opportunity they’ve provided me to play here this season. They’re a great group of guys.”
Gage Colpron, one of just five returners from last season’s championship squad and the new captain, believes the re-tooled team has the pieces in place to make another run at the title.
“(Preseason) camp has gone really well,” he said. “Everyone has gelled and bonded on and off the ice. And there’s a lot of talent in that room.”