The table is set and we know who our dinner guests will be. The Campbell River Storm are hosting the best Junior B teams in the province and arguably the country. Joining the Storm are the Revelstoke Grizzlies, Victoria Cougars and North Vancouver Wolf Pack.
Revelstoke Grizzlies (KIJHL)
Carter Anderson scored twice unassisted, his second the winner, as the Revelstoke Grizzlies played a near-perfect game, after conceding the opening goal, enroute to a 4-1 victory and the KIJHL Championship on Thursday before a packed house at the Kimberley Civic Centre. They took the series in five games.
Revie’s path to the Cyclone has been an impressive one. In successive series, the Conference Final and League Final, they dispatched the number one ranked Kelowna Chiefs and the number two Kimberley Dynamiters. That was no easy feat but the Grizzlies were so poised and rock solid on their back end that it almost seemed inevitable. After Game 4 of the semi-finals, they gave up just 8 goals (in 7 games) against offensively potent clubs who averaged over 5.5 goals per game in the regular season.
It’s no accident that the Revelstoke Grizzlies are at the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
Revelstoke finished the regular season with the third best record in the KI and the province. They faced the Kamloops Storm and 100 Mile House Wranglers (2020 Cyclone Taylor Cup host) in the opening rounds of the playoffs; eliminated those clubs quickly before heading to the Conference Final.
Any team that gets out of the KI, has to be considered a favourite for the Gold at this tournament and with Revelstoke’s skill and depth, why not?
The players to watch on the Grizzlies are forwards #89 Tommy Bodtker (17 points in 18 playoff games, #17 Ethan Schaeffer (16 in 19 including 11 goals), #22 Cody Flann (14 in 13), defenceman #88 Ullar Wiatzka (18 in 19) and goaltender #31 Liam McGarza (15 wins 3 losses, 1.69 GAA and .940 win).
The Victoria Cougars (VIJHL Champion)
Mateo Albinati scored two in Game 5 of the VIJHL Finals to lead the Victoria Cougars to another Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy, their first since 2016.
In 2017, they lost a quadruple overtime thriller in the Finals and last year were noticeably absent, the first time since 2010.
This season was a bounce-back year for the Cougars but it took a month for the boys to find their game starting the season 3 and 3.
The brass was busy in the offseason and early on, putting some skilled players around a small nucleus of returnees. The off-season acquisitions of Booker Chacalias, Kevan McBean, Marshall Brown and Owen Sikkes, the return of Tyler Vanuden and the early season trade to get Cameron LeSergent started to pay dividends in October and it seemed the Cougars were back.
It wasn’t until the playoffs that Victoria really hit stride. After dispatching the Oceanside Generals in 5 closely contested games, they faced a physically punishing Nanaimo Buccaneers side. Against the Bucs, the Cougars found their power play, scoring 12 times in the 6 game series.
The VIJHL Finals didn’t start well for Victoria, dropping the opener 4-0. It was a wakeup call for the group from Esquimalt who outscored the Storm in the next four games 18-4 enroute to the Championship.
The Cougars are ready for this tournament with an ability to score quickly and in bunches from anywhere on the ice. They are playing their best hockey now.
North Vancouver Wolf Pack (PJHL Champion)
On Wednesday, March 20, the North Vancouver Wolf Pack were crowned as Pacific Junior Hockey League Champions after a 5-1 victory over the second year Langley Trappers. The regular season champs swept the series in four. It’s their second PJHL championship since 2015.
We often speak about parity in BC Junior B hockey but this past season in the PJ, it was prominently displayed. For much of the season there were 6 teams with win percentages over .600.
The competition was so tight that the Wolf Pack's first place regular season finish was decided by a tie breaker.
The players to watch for the Wolf Pack are forwards #7 Jacob Fournier (20 points in 14 playoff games), #91 Justin Lee (20 in 14), #10 Lucas Barker (14 in 12), defenceman #19 Jacob Callas (16 in 11) and goaltender Niklas Hoems (6 wins, 0 losses)
For teams heading to the Cyclone, they’ll have to respect the North Van power play operating at 27.5%. In addition to Lee with 4 PP goals, their D is a threat to score with Jonathan Sheardown and Nathan Haaksma combining for 5 power play goals in the postseason.
Campbell River Storm (Host)
As the host team, the Campbell River Storm wanted to go into Cyclone as VIJHL Champions and although that didn’t become a reality, they were the top team during the regular season with the sixth best record in all of BC Junior B hockey.
The Storm are a threat to score at any time. Throughout the season, Campbell River saw their goals come from every line; concentrate on one line and another would strike. They led the league averaging over 4.3 goals per game.
During the regular season, the Storm were ranked number one on the powerplay, number one defensively averaging less than 2 goals per game against and were number two on the penalty kill.
As strong as the Storm were in the regular season, they faced some challenges in the playoffs. Their play was at times spotty. They faced elimination against the Panthers three times but showed character winning in seven, then rolling past the Braves in four.
Against the Cougars, they were impressive in Game 1 blanking their Southern rivals. Unfortunately, untimely injuries hurt the team and they failed to three-peat as VIJHL Champions.
The players to watch are Damon Porter (14 points in 16 playoff games), Mike Dyck (13 in 15), Darren Hards (11 in 16), Pearce Messer (10 in 12), big solid defenceman Ante Mustapic and the VIJHL Top Goaltender Aaron de Kok.
As a host team, the Campbell River Storm are not an easy win for the other three sides. This team finished first in the regular season and had the 6th best record in BC Junior B. Filled with skilled players and a big crowd behind them, the Storm will be looking to last year’s Cyclone Taylor Cup host team for inspiration (host Richmond won Gold).
The Cyclone Taylor Cup gets underway on Wednesday night with the banquet. The teams hit the ice on Thursday with the Cougars and Grizzlies meeting at 2:30 while the Storm and Wolf Pack battle at 7:45.