NANAIMO — The Nanaimo Buccaneers started the week with another win against a top South Division opponent, but a trip to Campbell River was memorable on several counts, both positive and negative.
On Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Pirate Ship the Swordsmen continued to assert their dominance over South Division opponents. With a strong defensive effort, the Buccaneers shut down a potent Saanich Braves offence. Several Bucs defenders, including Dylan Hartl, Aiden Sutherland, and Simon Creighton made key blocks with Saanich pressuring.
It was one of the best team defensive efforts witnessed at the Nanaimo Ice Centre this season. It seemed as if every Buccaneer had their stick in a shooting lane, often leading to a dangerous counter-attack. The first period set the tone for the game, with each team recording only 5 shots on goal. A lot of the period was played in the neutral zone, each team making it difficult to penetrate their blue line. Braves’ goaltender Connor Cheyne shut down a great one-timer opportunity from Tyson McLean on the left side of the slot. Buccaneers goalie Austin Dendl made a Dominik Hasek-esque save at the 7:00 minute mark. After making a save, Dendl was on his side, when Braves’ sniper Gavin Greway jumped on the rebound and shot toward the unguarded net. A determined Dendl pulled his right arm from behind the goal-line, sweeping the puck just in time.
Dale McCabe scored the games’ first goal 1:54 into the second stanza with a beautiful wrist shot. He put it the only place Dendl couldn’t cover, the top corner on his glove side. Nanaimo responded with pressure of their own, and started to fire more pucks on Connor Cheyne. It took them until the 19:28 mark to finally solve Cheyne who had turned away the first 13 shots on goal. Billy Walters and Dawson Wollf sent Trey Watson on a partial breakaway, and he slapped the puck over Cheyne’s blocker to tie the game 1-1. Saanich forward Kyle Mace was given a penalty for elbowing at the end of the second period. Even though the Bucs didn’t score, they kept shooting, many originating from defensemen at the point. A gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing play between Riley Gannon and Josh Zary at 7:43 of the third frame found the back of the net, giving Nanaimo their first lead.
Both goaltenders continued to sparkle when called upon, and it remained 2-1 until late in the third period when Saanich opted to pull Cheyne for an extra attacker. Aiden Sutherland wrapped things up with a long-range empty net goal, while Zary earned his second assist of the night. Both goaltenders were awarded game stars for their respective teams.
Bucs lose in Campbell River
Sunday’s match-up in Campbell River was a much different game in several respects.The Remembrance Day game against the North Division leading Storm was one that simply got away from Nanaimo. Buccaneers head coach and general manager Curt Toneff chalked the 9-2 loss up as a learning experience.
“It wasn’t our finest hour, that’s for sure,” began Toneff. “Our first 15 minutes were great – we had a 1-nothing lead, then they scored two quick ones, from there it didn’t look like we were ever coming back, whether it was 3-1 or 4-1. It wasn’t our night, there’s no real finger to point,” Toneff said.
The second year Bucs bench boss said special teams was a huge factor in the game.
“We’ll use it as a learning tool and move on, these things happen in the game of hockey. Today we had a good old fashioned, shall we say bag skate, we’re going to burn the game tape and move on.”
Bucs prepare for Westshore
The Buccaneers return home Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:15 p.m. to take on the Westshore Wolves.
Coach Toneff warned the Wolves can’t be taken lightly.
“Westshore is a team I believe is a lot better than that record, they have some horses there. They move the puck crisp, when we played them I thought they moved the puck very well, they play with some structure,” Toneff said.
He said Westshore pushes the pace offensively and they’ll have to be ready for that.
“They’re a team that wants to prove people wrong, we need to be ready to play come Thursday night,” Toneff said.
Nanaimo closes out the week on Saturday night (Nov. 17) when the Bucs travel to Courtenay in a bid to melt the Glacier Kings.
— Larenzo Jensen is the play-by-play voice of the Nanaimo Buccaneers
— Nanaimo News Now