It may be early in the season but, make no mistake, the VIJHL team from Campbell River is a force to be reckoned with.
After a 3-2 overtime victory over the previously undefeated Nanaimo Buccaneers on Friday, the upstart Storm served notice to the league Saturday night, crushing the perennial powerhouse Victoria Cougars 8-3 at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
Campbell River head coach Lee Stone said there’s no doubt this win is far more valuable than two points in the standings.
“I thought we wanted to make a statement in our home rink, regardless of who we were playing against, but any time you can beat a team that has won the league championship three years in a row, that’s special,” he said.
“For us, it sets the tone for the year against those guys (Victoria) and, quite frankly, I think it sends a message to the rest of the league.”
After giving up a goal on the first shot of the game, the Storm rebounded with tallies by impressive rookie Kobe Oishi and veteran winger Gage Colpron to take a 2-1 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
Campbell River began to take control of the contest in the second period, using their superior speed and skill to break down the Cougar’s defence.
Colin Blake scored twice and Michael Olson added a single to up the advantage to 5-3 heading into the final stanza.
Victoria forward Robert Zadra tried a different tactic to get the locals off their game but that was taken care of by Storm captain Jordan Rauser early in the third.
“He was running around, trying to get his team fired up by challenging some our guys to fight,” said Rauser. “I just decided to put an end to that.”
The spirited scrap resulted in both players being ejected and fired up the Storm even more as they responded with unanswered goals by Devyn Grant, Grady McInnes, and Oishi with a second of the night.
“It was good to see Jordan step up like that,” Stone said, “We are not interested in having a fighting, goon team but when guys like Zadra try to cause trouble we need our older players to take care of it.
“Five on five I don’t think they (Victoria) can even come close to skating with us. Our speed and skill is a lot of fun to watch and, when we utilize it, we score goals.”
Trevor Bottomley was the hero on Friday night, scoring a power play goal 46 seconds into overtime to send a near capacity crowd of 984 home happy.
The rookie defenceman crept into the slot and one-timed a perfect pass from Colin Blake over the blocker of Nanaimo goaltender Greg Maggio.
“Blakey made a great pass and I didn’t even look, I just hammered it as hard as I could,” said Bottemley.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve scored an overtime goal like that – probably three or four years ago in a spring tournament.”
After falling behind 2-1 early, the Storm needed a late second period power play goal by a Michael Olson to send the game to an extra session.
Maggio was outstanding in net for the Buccaneers, facing 24 shots in the third period alone.
Overall, Campbell River outshot Nanaimo 57-21.