Clash of the Titans goes Sunday in Esquimalt

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(ISN) – Bragging rights will be on the line when the South Island Division leading Victoria Cougars (26-3-1-0) play host to the North Island Division leading Campbell River Storm (26-2-1-2) tomorrow afternoon.

Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 3:30 p.m.

This matchup should be a dandy.

Both Campbell River and Victoria enters tomorrow’s tilt as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked Junior B teams in all of British Columbia. The Storm comes into tomorrow’s game with a more than impressive .887 winning percentage, just .004 points more than the Cougars who hold a game in hand on Campbell River.

These two star-studded teams are very evenly matched.

Both the Storm and Victoria rank 1-2 in offense, defense, power play efficiency, and penalty kill. To top it off, Campbell River has not lost in regulation since they dropped a one goal decision to the Comox Valley Glacier Kings back on October 31. Since then, they are 12-0-0-2. Meanwhile, the Cougars are on an eight-game winning streak. Something has got to give.

The Storm bolsters the VIJHL’s top offense, scoring a province-high 178 goals. In contrast, Victoria has allowed only 52 goals against, the fewest in the league and in all of British Columbia.

Special teams will also be a factor tomorrow afternoon as Campbell River’s No. 1 power play goes up against the Cougars No. 1 penalty kill. It will be interesting how this will play out.

Both teams have beefed up their rosters since the last time they met. The Storm acquired Will McNamara, Connor Logan, Thor Rosback, and Daine Elphicke through trades. On the flip side, Victoria went out and got Lane Van de Wetering, Brett Lervold, and most recently PJ Heger.

Cougars forward Sam McMullen currently leads the VIJHL in scoring with 60 points. Breathing down his neck and sitting 2-3-4 are McNamara, Michael Olson, and Gage Colpron of Campbell River.

Expect Anthony Ciurro to get the start in net for Victoria while the Storm counters with Jesse Michel who played for Sollentuna HC in the top Swedish junior league last season.

Acquired by the Cougars from Campbell River before the start of the season, Ciurro has quietly put up a league-leading 16 wins, a 1.42 goals against average, and a .935 save percentage. Dane Feeney, who was part of the deal that sent Ciurro to Victoria, was injured in a game on November 29 and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.

There is good news for the not-now-as-shorthanded Cougars as John Kretzschmar returns to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension.

On September 13, the Storm beat Victoria 8-3 in its only meeting so far this season. However, that happened during the fourth game of the season for both teams. That game was also played in front of a packed house at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena.

The Cougars are 12-1-1-0 at home. Campbell River is 11-1-1-2 on the road.

Having not played since Friday, both teams will be well rested and armed and ready.

In other action around the VIJHL tomorrow, Saanich travels to Kerry Park to take on the Islanders at the Kerry Park Recreation Centre.

STANDINGS: Victoria – 1st place, 53 points, South Island Division. Campbell River – 1st place, 55 points, North Island Division

OFFENSE: Victoria – 2nd place, 4.77 goals for per game. Campbell River – 1st place, 5.74 goals for per game

DEFENSE: Victoria – 1st place, 1.73 goals against per game. Campbell River – 2nd place, 2.39 goals against per game

TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Michael Fretz, 24 goals; Sam McMullen, 41 assists; Sam McMullen, 60 points; John Kretzschmar, 57 penalty minutes. Campbell River – Will McNamara, 26 goals; Colin Blake, Tyler Welsh, 33 assists; Will McNamara, 53 points; Brendan Enns, 96 penalty minutes

GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Anthony Ciurro (1.42 goals against average, .935 save percentage); Grant Payne (2.01 goals against average, .911 save percentage). Campbell River – Jesse Michel (1.90 goals against average, .921 save percentage); Drew Stuve (1.00 goals against average, .900 save percentage); Nicholas Kirchner (no appearances)

POWER PLAY: Victoria – 2nd place, 38-for-164, 23.17 percent. Campbell River – 1st place, 50-for-207, 24.15 percent

PENALTY KILL: Victoria – 1st place, 134-for-147, 91.16 percent. Campbell River – 2nd place, 132-for-153, 86.27 percent

SEASON SERIES: Campbell River leads, 1-0-0-0

PAST RESULTS/FUTURE MEETINGS:
September 13, 2014. Victoria Cougars 3 @ Campbell River Storm 8
January 15, 2015. Campbell River Storm @ Victoria Cougars
February 13, 2015. Victoria Cougars @ Campbell River Storm

HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 12-1-1-0. Campbell River – Away, 11-1-1-2

STREAKS: Victoria, 8-0-0-0. Campbell River, 12-0-0-2

LAST TEN: Victoria, 9-1-0-0. Campbell River, 8-0-0-2

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