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The Westshore Wolves improved enough for the 2017-2018 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season to be right in the mix in the very tight South Division. They finished second to the Saanich Braves with 52 points in 48 games.
The Wolves then went on to defeat a perennial favourite Victoria Cougars team during the first round of the post-season, but now they face the juggernaut from the north, the Campbell River Storm, who are proving to be very tough to play against.
After three games, the Storm are up 3-0 and the Wolves face imminent elimination on Sunday at The Q Centre in Colwood.
The Storm won game one at home by the score of 4-0, then in Colwood 5-2 and back in Campbell River by handing the Wolves a thrashing, defeating them 8-1.
It was likely a long, slow bus ride back from Campbell River for the Wolves who were defensively strangled as they were held to just 17 shots all game and the powerplay, which had nine opportunities, was absolutely stifled.
Campbell River scored twice on their seven opportunities in game three.
Seven different Storm players scored, while 11 hit the scoresheet with either a goal or an assist.
Twenty-year-old Campbell River native, Mitch Stapley led the way with one goal and two assists for the home team on Friday.
The Saanich Braves are having a tough time too, with the Nanaimo Buccaneers, who improved in a big way this year.
They are down two games to zero and need to win tonight to get back into the series.
The Braves won the South Division and Nanaimo was second in the North during the regular season. Any of the five teams in the south could have ended up winning the division with a few puck bounces and luck going the other way, whereas in the North it was all Campbell River and Nanaimo, all season.
The final will likely be Campbell River and Nanaimo in a seven-game series.
The Buccaneers defeated Saanich 5-2 on Monday in Nanaimo. They won again 5-4 in Saanich on Wednesday.
The Braves are up against solid goaltending, having outshot the Buccaneers 38-30 and 43-30 in the two games respectively.
The Braves have gone 3/16 on the powerplay, not stellar special teams play, but they have held Nanaimo to 1/8.
Part of the answer lies in goaltender Derek Krall, who the Braves will have to sort out if they hope to defeat the Buccaneers. He has been standing on his head during the first two games.
Game one, 20-year-old Nanaimo native Mathieu Jallabert picked up four points including a hat-trick. He earned another assist in game two. Trent Bell, also 20 and from nearby Nanoose Bay led the way in the second game with a goal and two assists.
During game two, Michael Sproule opened the scoring for the Braves at 10:38 of the first period. One-minute and two seconds later Bell scored. The period ended 1-1.
At 3:21 of the second, Noah Kelly scored the only goal of the middle frame.
Then within the first 2:01 of the third, Saanich notched two, one each from Kyle Mace and Zach Guerra, with his second point of the game. Starts like that lead to momentum shifts, but apparently not against Nanaimo.
At 3:10, Owen Dahlman scored, the teams exchanged another goal each as Trevor Owens and Brandon Roberge scored at 5:21 and 9:27 respectively.
It took until 3:30 of the second overtime period for Nanaimo to put the game away when Darian Harris buried the puck from who else, but Bell and Jallabert.
Puck drop tonight at Pearkes Arena is scheduled for 6:30 pm; it’s a must win for Saanich.