Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
The Campbell River Storm jumped to a 3-0 lead and held on to defeat the Saanich Braves 4-1 Friday, tying their VIJHL playoff series at a game apiece.
Saanich (ISN) – Call it a hurricane, call it a monsoon, or call it a nor’easter, it really didn’t matter what kind of Storm it was, but the Saanich Braves were caught in the middle of it Friday, as they came up against a raging Campbell River Storm and dropped a 4-1 decision, evening the best of seven VIJHL playoff series at a game each.
The Storm warnings began early in this one, as Saanich’s Ty Jones took a holding the stick penalty on the opening face-off and the Storm would capitalize immediately, as Alex Grupe would tip a Kaden Trumbley point shot up and over the blocker of Tanner McGaw just 51 seconds into the game.
The Storm were flying in the first period and clearly had more intensity and jump than they did in the opener Wednesday evening. The Braves seemed to struggle with this, and while the teams were fairly even on the shot clock, the territorial edge and the better chances seemed to go to the Storm.
Campbell River’s Alex Grupe would notch the Storm’s first goal, just 51 secoonds into the game Friday evening.
The Storm’s hard work and intensity paid off with just over five minutes remaining in the period, as Jesse Spooner would centre a pass from behind the net which would deflect oddly off a skate in front and sneak past McGaw to give the Storm a 2-0 lead.
At the other end of the ice, the Braves used two power plays of their own to throw a number of shots at the Campbell River net, but 6’3″ Storm goaltender Nick Babich used his size to stop all of the Brave’s 16 shots, including a key save on a breakaway attempt by Saanich’s Andrew White.
Storm goaltender Nick Babich made 16 first period save en route to a 39 save performance in the Storm’s 4-1 win Friday.
In period two, the Braves once again found themselves in penalty trouble early as Jordan Groenheyde took a cross checking penalty 45 seconds in. The Storm made the Braves pay for this with a power play goal when Joel Wheeldon would get one past McGaw at the 2:31 mark giving the Storm a 3-0 lead.
After that goal, the tide seemed to turn a bit in the Braves favour and they started to take over play in the Storm end, although they still had difficulty solving Babich.
That would change late in the period however, as Saanich’s Sheldon Trees would battle hard in front to bang a power play marker past Babich and put the Braves on the scoreboard with 4:35 remaining.
Saanich’s Sheldon Trees celebrates his second period goal, which would be Saanich’s only marker on the evening.
A defensive minded and penalty filled third period, resulted in each team only getting 8 shots on net, but neither the Storm, thanks to some big saves by McGaw, nor the Braves, could find the back of the net.
With time winding down, the Braves pulled their goalie with just under two minutes remaining, but the move was to no avail, as Jesse Spooner would pick up a lose puck and slide it into the open net with 50 seconds remaining to give the Storm the final 4-1 win.
Saanich’s Shawn McBride eludes Campbell River’s Dane Feeney in Friday night’s action.
Saanich Head Coach Brad Cook summed things up concisely, “They out-played us, they out-worked us and they out-chanced us tonight. Right from the get go. Enough said.”
Storm Coach Rob Voltera was happy about how his team reacted after Wednesday’s loss, “We made a few adjustments after the last game that I think we needed to shut down some of the things they were doing to us and that worked well for us.”
Jesse Spooner would get an empty net goal, his second of the evening, to seal the Storm’s 4-1 win Friday.
“Our team speed worked well for us tonight, but so did our grit and our intensity. It’s tough on a small rink like this sometimes to use our speed, but on Sunday things will be a little different and we hope to use it even more to our advantage.”
On Babich’s 39 save performance, Voltera noted, “Nick is a proven winner and he seems to be in the zone right now. I hope he stays there for the next month or so!”
The two teams now travel to Campbell River where Games 3 and 4 of the series will take place on Sunday and Tuesday night respectively. Game 5 will be back in Saanich next Wednesday.
Saanich’s Brandon Parmar would have an assist on the Brave’s lone goal Friday evening.