As expected, the North Island Division champion Campbell River Storm will square off against the South Island Division champion Victoria Cougars in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League Championship Series.
The best-of-7 series begins Thursday, March 23 in Victoria.
One of these teams will earn a berth at the Cyclone Taylor Cup, hosted this year by the Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Campbell River stormed into the VIJHL Championship Series after knocking off the Nanaimo Buccaneers in five games. Meanwhile, it took the Cougars the same amount of games to oust the Kerry Park Islanders.
This showdown is a rematch of the 2016 VIJHL Championship Series, won by Victoria in six games and the 2015 VIJHL Championship Series, won by the Storm in four games.
The Cougars went 3-1-0-0 in four head-to-head meetings with Campbell River this season. After dropping a 3-0 decision back in September, Victoria went on to win three straight by scores of 4-2, 5-2, and 3-2.
That 3-2 win on February 17 helped the Cougars secure the No. 1 seed and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Victoria ended the regular season with 35 wins and 75 points. Not far behind was the Storm who won 34 games and collected 70 points.
Both teams are incredibly deep across the board. Ranked 1-2 the entire season in virtually every statistical category, both teams possess high-powered offenses, stifling defenses, and strong goaltending.
Campbell River cleaned up at the VIJHL Awards Ceremony. Josh Harvey got to co-share the Jack Kingston Memorial Trophy with Joe Gage of the Westshore Wolves for Top Defenseman. Kobe Oishi was awarded the Walt McWiliams Memorial Trophy for Unsung Hero. Chris Smith was awarded the Ray’s Sports Centre Trophy for Top Goaltender. And Mark Berry was named Top Broadcaster.
Both teams were also fantastic on their respective home soil. Victoria was 19-4-0-1 at the Archie Browning Sports Centre while the Storm went 19-5-0-0 at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
This series promises to be a barn burner.
Elsewhere around the Junior B circuit…
The Aldergrove Kodiaks has a 2-0 series lead on the Delta Ice Hawks in the Pacific Junior Hockey League Championship Series. Game 3 of their best-of-7 series goes Tuesday at the Ladner Leisure Centre.
In the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League semi-finals, the best-of-5 series between the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Kimberley Dynamiters is tied at 1-1 while the Osoyoos Coyotes has a 2-0 series lead on the Chase Heat. Both series resumes Tuesday.
The Cyclone Taylor Cup runs April 6-9.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Victoria – Eliminated Westshore Wolves 4-2. Eliminated Kerry Park Islanders 4-1. Campbell River – Eliminated Peninsula Panthers 4-0. Eliminated Nanaimo Buccaneers 4-1.
OFFENSE: Victoria – 3.82 goals for per game. Campbell River – 6.22 goals for per game
DEFENSE: Victoria – 2.73 goals against per game. Campbell River – 2.89 goals against per game
TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Tyler Vanuden, Dom Kolbeins, 8 goals; Grayden Hohl, 11 assists; Tyler Vanuden, 18 points; Owen Dalman, 32 penalty minutes. Campbell River – Carter Hikichi, 6 goals; Darren Hards, 10 assists; Darren Hards, 15 points; Ben Raffler, 31 penalty minutes
GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Anthony Ciurro (2.26 goals against average, .935 save percentage); Liam McCloskey (4.52 goals against average, .864 save percentage). Campbell River – Chris Smith (2.54 goals against average, .892 save percentage); Spencer Deakin (2.98 goals against average, .864 save percentage)
POWER PLAY: Victoria, 19-for-72, 26.39 percent. Campbell River, 11-for-57, 19.30 percent
PENALTY KILL: Victoria, 56-for-65, 86.15 percent. Campbell River, 37-for-49, 75.51 percent
March 23, 2017. Campbell River Storm @ Victoria Cougars
March 24, 2017. Victoria Cougars @ Campbell River Storm
March 26, 2017. Campbell River Storm @ Victoria Cougars
March 28, 2017. Victoria Cougars @ Campbell River Storm
March 30, 2017 (if necessary). Campbell River Storm @ Victoria Cougars
March 31, 2017 OR April 1, 2017 (if necessary). Victoria Cougars @ Campbell River Storm
April 2, 2017 (if necessary). Campbell River Storm @ Victoria Cougars
HOME RECORDS: Victoria, 5-0-0-1. Campbell River, 5-0-0-0
AWAY RECORDS: Victoria, 3-2-0-0. Campbell River, 3-0-0-1
STREAKS: Victoria, W3. Campbell River, W1
LAST TEN: Victoria, 7-2-0-1. Campbell River, 8-0-0-1