ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Campbell River Storm took the opener of the VIJHL Championship Series by a score of 4-3 on Thursday before several hundred fans at the Archie Browning Sports Centre.
Playing a fast-paced, physical game, Campbell River gave the Cougars defense all sorts of difficulties.
Victoria welcomed the return from injury of two quality players – Nick Gomerich and Kyle Wade who have both been sidelined since the middle of February.
However, it would be the Storm that struck first.
Ben Raffler opened the scoring with 1:16 remaining in the first period after banging home a Darren Hards rebound past Anthony Ciurro.
Campbell River went ahead 2-0 at 3:50 of the middle frame. Reid Wheeldon, who missed a couple of shifts in the first period after taking a Trevor Isaksson shot off the leg, banged in his own rebound for his second goal of the playoffs.
Skating out from behind the Storm net, Liam Kinshella lifted the puck over Chris Smith to cut the lead in half at 12:10.
At 17:44, Raffler was penalized for interfering with Dom Kolbeins. 20 seconds later, Jordan Passmore tied the game at 2-2 after converting an Avery Hill rebound into a goal.
All of a sudden the crowd came to life at the A.B.S.C.
Mitchell Williams, who was recently named VIJHL Player of the Week, broke the hearts of the Cougars faithful at 7:58 of the third period when he went five-hole on Ciurro. The goal came with Williams spinning out of control before falling face first onto the ice.
Then at 12:36, Dylan McCann celebrated his fourth goal of the playoffs after gobbling up a loose puck and firing it into a wide open net. Ciurro was unable to smother the puck after he was hung out to dry by three of his teammates who were standing around looking dazed and confused.
Passmore finished off the scoring at 17:40.
With 99 seconds remaining in regulation, Victoria could not find the equalizer with the extra attacker.
Grayden Hohl had a pair of assists in a losing cause.
Shots on goal favoured the Cougars 33-31.
The power play was dreadful for Victoria. Although going 1-for-4 with the man advantage, the Cougars were unable to capitalize on back-to-back power plays early in the third period when the score was tied 2-2.
Not much better, the Storm was unable to score on three of its opportunities.
Game 2 goes Friday night in Campbell River.
The Aldergrove Kodiaks has a 3-0 series lead on the Delta Ice Hawks in the Pacific Junior Hockey League Championship Series.
In the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League semi-finals, the best-of-five series between the Beaver Valley Nitehawks/Kimberley Dynamiters and Chase Heat/Osoyoos Coyotes are deadlocked at 2-2.
BAYVIEW PLACE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st star, Mitchell Williams (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2nd star, Max Daerendinger (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3rd star, Jordan Passmore (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)