Tomorrow night the South Island Division leading Victoria Cougars will play host to the North Island Division leading Campbell River Storm at the Archie Browning Sports Centre with the puck dropping at 7 P.M.
The Cougars and Campbell River enter Thursday’s tilt as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked Junior B teams in all of British Columbia.
With both teams close to wrapping up first place in their respective divisions, the Andy Hebenton Trophy (awarded by the VIJHL to the team that finishes with the most points during the regular season) is still up for grabs.
Winning the Andy Hebenton Trophy has one privilege – home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Victoria is 15-1-1-0 at the A.B.S.C. while the Storm is 18-1-0-0 at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
Currently, only one point separates the Storm and Victoria in the standings. The Cougars though have one game in hand on Campbell River which they will use on Wednesday night versus the Westshore Wolves.
It has been a two-horse race between Victoria’s Sam McMullen and Storm’s Will McNamara for the VIJHL scoring title. Currently, McMullen has a slim three point lead over McNamara with roughly five weeks to go in the VIJHL regular season.
The two teams have been evenly matched all season.
Both Campbell River and the Cougars rank 1-2 in offense, defense, power play efficiency, and penalty kill.
The Storm bolsters the VIJHL’s top offense, scoring a province-high 211 goals. In contrast, the Cougars have, prior to Wednesday, allowed only 71 goals against, the fewest in the VIJHL and in all of British Columbia.
Special teams will also be a factor Thursday as the Storm’s No. 1 power play goes up against Victoria’s No. 1 penalty kill.
In their last meeting back on December 14, the Cougars beat Campbell River 4-3 in overtime.
The Storms’ Dane Feeney, who missed the entire month of December with an injury, returned to the Campbell River lineup with a vengeance. The five-foot-seven, 150-pound offensive dynamo has four goals and three assists in his last three games.
There was some late night activity prior to the January 10 trade deadline. The Storm dealt cash and a player to be named later to the Peninsula Panthers in exchange for 19-year-old forward Reece Costain. And in a separate deal, Campbell River acquired 17-year-old goaltender Riley Welyk from the Westshore Wolves to backup Michel.
Michael Olson, who has 24 goals and 52 points on the season for the Storm, suffered an upper-body injury over a week ago and is expected to miss up to a month.
Campbell River has not played since January 9 after doubling up on the cellar-dwelling Oceanside Generals 6-3.