Buccaneers clinch first place

Nanaimo Buccaneers player Will McNamara, middle, scores his second of three goals on Thursday against the Westshore Wolves at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Nanaimo Buccaneers player Will McNamara, middle, scores his second of three goals on Thursday against the Westshore Wolves at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

The Nanaimo Buccaneers have made their inaugural season a banner year.

The city's Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League team clinched first place in the North Island Division with a 6-2 win Thursday against the Westshore Wolves at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

The Bucs completely dominated the game, especially Nanaimo's first line which combined for five goals. Will McNamara scored a hat trick, Beau Blanaru potted a pair and Riel Gibson scored the other.

"We got into a rhythm, I thought," said Brad Knight, Bucs coach. "We played really well – you could see it breaking open."

Blanaru scored the first two goals of the game, Gibson finished off a pretty passing play for the game winner, and then McNamara went to work, scoring two of his three goals on breakaways.

Knight said his team created traffic and forced rebounds in the attacking zone, and also displayed skill by scoring some beautiful goals. He also liked the Buccaneers' play in their own end, as they limited second chances and cleared out the front of their net.

The game was notable for a line brawl with two minutes left that featured a goalie fight between the Bucs' Cam Large and the Wolves' Alec Dillon. Knight felt the Wolves started the brawl.

"I think they got upset and got tired and got frustrated," said Knight. "You could see it coming."

After the gloves and sticks were picked up off the ice and the penalties doled out, the teams finished the game without incident and the Bucs got to celebrate a division title.

"It's awesome. A lot of people doubted us, a first-year team coming into the league…" McNamara said. "We can beat the best teams. We clinched first in the [division] and we're a new team – that says a lot for us."

Knight said he's happy for his players.

"In sports you always compete to be the best and I think the kids did a good job and I'm proud of them," he said.

ICE CHIPS … McNamara finished with five points and Garrett Dunlop supplied four assists. Large earned the win as his team outshot the visitors 45-25 … The Buccaneers play the Kerry Park Islanders on Saturday (Feb. 9) on the road. The game will be played at Duncan's Island Savings Centre in a 3:45 p.m. faceoff. There will be a fan bus that day; for more information please click here … The Bucs will play either the Islanders or the Campbell River Storm in the first round of the VIJHL playoffs.

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