Jaden Little makes a save, then thanks his best friend the post, off of a Gaven Grewal effort, in close. Credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2019 – Victoria Sports News

Do or die, sink or swim, it’s now or never – roll out the aphorisms – the Saanich Braves had to win out (take four straight) to take the seven-game, second-round VIJHL playoff series against the Campbell River Storm.

Although Saanich played well, winning the series was a monumental task. On Wednesday, they hosted the Storm at Pearkes Arena for Game 4.

The Storm won the first three games, 3-2, 2-1 and 3-1 – the scores couldn’t be much closer. They lost Game 4, 4-1, including an empty net goal.

Wednesday’s game had all the trappings of yet another one-goal game. During the first 15-minutes, it was Saanich with the majority of the possession time, but Campbell River has a stingy defence and quality goaltending.

“We couldn’t score. It was a tough series for us that way. I mean we had 40 shots on net tonight and three or four goal posts on top of that and only one goal to show for it. It was a weird series for us for sure,” said coach Sam Waterfield. “We get up for whoever we play against and we played well but couldn’t score.”

The Storm opened the scoring on a pretty 3-on-2 passing play, during the man advantage. Tyler Chyzowski finished off a rush going forehand, then backhand on goaltender Anderson Violette. Josh Pederson had carried the puck in deep before dishing to Chyzowski who was skating into the slot.

With just 36 seconds remaining in the first period, Michael Hoekstra dug the puck out of the corner and fed Zach Guerra who skated in on net and wristed a shot from a tight angle, going short-side on Jaden Little to tie the game.

The teams went for it during the second period, as the Braves threw 17 shots on Little for a two period total of 32.

“They were really hungry. They really wanted us in the series. Obviously the league final last year was Campbell River and Saanich, so there was a lot of guys on that team that had a sour taste in their mouth from last year,” said Storm coach Mike Wilson. “I have to hand it to them. I know it was just four games, but they gave us all we could handle. Games could have gone either way. We were able to rise above and come up with the result.”

The only goal during the second period was scored on the man advantage at 5:27 by Darren Hards – it would eventually prove to be the game winner. Damon Kramer and Josh Pederson assisted on the play. Hards went stick side on Violette. There were just two seconds remaining in the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Kyle Mace, who was penalized for throwing a Storm player’s glove during a tussle.

“They played us hard, they always do,” said Hards, a 20-year-old Prince George native. He picked up 59 points last season in 44 games played. This season he played 20 games scoring nine goals and picking up 16 assists on a more deeply balanced Storm team.

Hards chose Campbell River when he was cut from Junior A, playing stints with the Victoria Grizzlies, Langley Rivermen, Cowichan Capitals, Nanaimo Clippers and Surrey Eagles.

In regards to who they play next, Victoria Cougars – a skilled team or Nanaimo Buccaneers a tough team – Hards said, “doesn’t matter, whoever we will be up against we will be ready to play,”

Saanich held the edge for most of the second period.

Campbell River Storm Jaden Little. Credit: Christopher Kelsall

Both goaltenders were keeping the score low with the strong play in their respective nets.

The third period was played nearly straight time with few faceoffs and just one penalty to Dayton Clarke of the Braves for slashing. The period was a demonstration of the Storm team playing their strong game at their own blueline and giving no space or time to the Braves when the play went deep. Jaden Little was standing tall in net for the Storm. Violette was just as good, however, faced a whopping 19 shots during the final frame.

“Yeah he played well tonight de Kok played really strong for the first three games, but Little is going to have to play in the Cyclone Cup (provincial title) so they needed to get him in – he had a strong game,” said Waterfield.

“Jaden played well for us tonight. He hasn’t played much lately. The way he stepped up and played for us, he was a real leader and a calming force for us back there tonight,” added Wilson.

At 1:33, the Storm took a 3-1 lead with a goal by Damon Porter. At 17:33 Noah Fladagar scored into an empty net to put the game out of reach.

Although the Braves lost four straight, they kept the series close.

“We knew they would throw everything at us as they needed to play desperate hockey. We made some adjustments going into the third period,” said Wilson.

Shots were 43-40 for Campbell River.

The Storm await the victor between the Victoria Cougars and the Nanaimo Buccaneers for the league title. The Storm will host the Cyclone Cup and built the team to be deep without a single overpowering line, they sought out 20 players who would be getting plenty of ice time on any other team.

Several players are graduating from the Braves including veteran leaders Gavin Grewal who has been with the team for four years, while Dale McCabe arrived during the 2013-2014 season.

Asked if he will be back next season, Waterfield said, “We will see. Like the players, coaches are also looking to move up. I am sure we will have some talks during the offseason.”

Waterfield will busy himself working with the Victoria Royals as they enter the post-season starting Friday against the Kamloops Blazers.

Thursday night sees the Cougars host the Nanaimo Buccaneers at Archie Browning Arena. The series is tied 2-2. The winner will face the Storm.