In the first round of the playoffs, the Campbell River Storm were down three games to one but managed to come back to oust the Peninsula Panthers.
They could not repeat that same magic though against the stiffer competition from Victoria, as the Storm bowed out on home ice Tuesday night, leaving the Cougars as VIJHL champs when the final buzzer sounded in game five.
A week earlier, the Storm controlled play for most of the 60 minutes for a 4-0 win. After losing the next three, they looked a little edgy Tuesday night, even defeated during the first half, despite a fairly even shot count. The passing wasn’t crisp, and the opponents were winning the puck battles.
The Cougars’ Brett Kinley put one past Storm goalie Aaron de Kok that dribbled through his pads to get the visitors on the board roughly six minutes in. Victoria’s Mateo Albinati added another in the second, and the Storm’s immediate response was to take some undisciplined penalties midway through the period.
They looked done but managed to kill off the penalties and rallied when Damon Porter scored an unassisted goal at the 13:10 mark. The marker snapped Cougar netminder Owen Sikkes’s shutout streak of 158 minutes and 27 seconds.
A few minutes later Davis Frank converted a backhand to tie things up. Darren Hards and Kyle Jennings drew assists on the play.
With the score even, the Storm looked rejuvenated and kept the momentum into the third period. They had a few close calls, most notably after a turnover allowed Tyler Chyzowski to skate in on a late breakaway that looked like a sure thing left but sailed wide.
Victoria fought back through the last few minutes of frenetic play to muster some offence again. There was a sense one of the teams was going to get the decisive goal before overtime. In the end, Victoria’s Matthew Clark took advantage of a rebound to give the visitors the 3-2 lead with 2:13 to play. Albinati added an empty netter with 49 seconds left to seal the win – and the league title.
At the end, the ice was littered with gloves and helmets, as the Cougars celebrated and the Storm consoled each other, then saluted their fans with a wave of their sticks before heading to the dressing room. Prior to the game, the Storm presented Damon Kramer with the Fan Favourite Award for this past season.
The Storm and the Cougars will return to the Brind’Amour Arena next week for the Cyclone Taylor Cup, which runs from April 11 through 14. In the round robin, they will face each other as well as the North Vancouver Wolf Pack of the Pacific Junior Hockey League and the winner of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Also on Tuesday night, the Revelstoke Grizzlies beat the Kimberley Dynamiters 5-0 to take a three-to-one series lead in the KIJHL finals.