The Campbell River Storm went up against the three B.C. Junior B league champions in the Cyclone Taylor Cup this past weekend right here in Campbell River and showed why they, too, should be considered amongst the best in the province this year.
While the hosts finished fourth in the four-team tournament they certainly weren’t pushovers.
The Storm opened the tournament last Thursday night against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack.
North Van showed why they came out of the PJHL as league champions, opening the scoring late in the hard-fought first period, and followed up with another slew of goals before the second period was a quarter done, tearing out to a 4-0 lead.
Just before the half-way point in the second, Reid Wheeldon got the Storm on the board. Owen Christiansen got the hosts back within two at 13:56 of the third, but that was as close as they would get. With goaltender Aaron de Kok on the bench for the extra attacker, North Van found the empty net to put the game away.
This meant the next night’s game against the Victoria Cougars would be crucial for the Storm to win if they wanted a chance to play for the cup at the end of the weekend. Two straight losses to open the tournament would inevitably lead to a spot in the bronze medal game Sunday instead of playing for gold.
But on this day, Campbell River came out flying, intent on getting revenge on the team that took their league championship the week before.
In one of the most intense games Rod Brind’Amour Arena has seen in quite some time, the two powerhouses of the VIJHL went all-out on Friday. The bodies were flying, the passes were crisp and both goaltenders needed to be sharp.
And sharp they were.
Only the Cougars found the back of the net behind de Kok in the first and it took them almost the whole period and their fourth powerplay to do so.
The Storm’s Mike Dyck, who led the team in points during the VIJHL regular season, tied up the game just before the midway point of the second, but Victoria got that one back less than three minutes later.
A Cougars interference penalty with just over a minute remaining in the period, however, gave Scott Rademaker his opportunity to get the host team back on even footing, tying the game at two.
A back and forth third period wouldn’t solve anything except to add a few more Roughing After the Whistle penalties to the scoresheet, and the teams headed for overtime, where Wheeldon found the back of the net behind Owen Sikkes to give the Storm the win, earn player of the game and keep his team’s hopes alive for a championship trophy.
The Storm would run into a red hot Revelstoke Grizzlies team in their third game of the tournament on Saturday, however. The Grizzlies had dominated North Vancouver the afternoon before by a score of 5-1 and both teams were in a “win and you’re in” situation where a loss would mean a spot in the consolation game but a win would pit them against Victoria for the championship.
The hosts struck first when Damon Porter found the twine behind Grizzlies goaltender Liam McGarva with about two minutes remaining in the first.
The second period, however, belonged almost exclusively to Revelstoke, though it wouldn’t show on the scoreboard by the end of it.
The Grizzlies scored just 1:42 into the frame. Dyck would get it back almost exactly one minute later to regain the lead from the Storm, but from then on it was basically up to de Kok to try and keep his team in the game – and the tournament.
The Storm goaltender, who led the VIJHL in almost every statistical category throughout the regular season – including wins, Goals Against Average and Save Percentage – had his work cut out for him. The Grizzlies doubled the Storm in shots in the period (19 to 8) and many of those shots were legitimate scoring chances, as well. Somehow, they would only get one more by him in the period, tying the game at two heading into the third period.
The Grizzlies offensive pressure continued in the third as they managed another 14 shots on de Kok in the frame – bringing their total to 42 on the game – one more of which was good enough to give them the lead, which they held onto for the remainder of the period to take the game and send them to the gold medal match.
The Storm then met the Wolf Pack for a rematch Sunday afternoon in the bronze medal game.
And this was another thriller of a game.
After another back-and-forth high-energy period, North Van’s Jacob Lacasse managed to beat Jaden Little – who got the starting call from coach Mike Wilson – with about two minutes remaining to give his team the lead heading to the dressing room. The second period would be much the same, with the teams trading physical blows and scoring opportunities but neither team managing to score until Porter beat Spencer Escyschyn with just under two mintes remaining in the second.
Dyck would get his third of the tournament from Porter to put the Storm up by one early in the third, but Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise tied it up yet again just over the half-way mark of the period.
Then, just under two minutes into the extra frame, Jonathan Sheardown beat Little on a rebound to give North Van the bronze medal.
Revelstoke went on to beat Victoria 5-1 in the gold medal game later that afternoon before yet another packed crowd of appreciative fans, who were treated to a wonderful weekend of extremely high-quality, intense hockey from all of the teams who came to town representing their respective leagues.