The Nanaimo Buccaneers are still perfect in home openers in club history, and more importantly, they’re 1-0 to start the 2018-19 season.
The city’s junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League club won its season opener Thursday, getting past the Campbell River Storm by a 3-1 score at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
The game was 1-1 most of the way through, but Bucs forward Darian Harris one-timed home a favourable bounce early in the third period and Nanaimo kept control from there.
Curtis Toneff, Buccaneers coach, said his team did the little things right, blocking shots, playing a “heavy game” and benefiting from great goaltendeing.
“We found a way. We didn’t get too up or too down … We stayed fairly composed,” the coach said. “It’s just a good way to start the season – against a strong team like that, home opener, to get a win. It wasn’t an oil painting, but we didn’t expect it to be an oil painting. It’s Sept. 6.”
He said the coaching staff made adjustments throughout the game and guys adapted.
“It shows that they’re smart and they listen and they pay attention to what you’re saying,” Toneff said.
Harris said the team’s fast start, and getting the first goal of the game, were important factors.
“We had lots of jump in the first 10 minutes – it was huge to come out flying,” he said.
Joshua Zary scored the first goal of the season five minutes into the game, the Storm responded two minutes later and the score stayed that way until Harris’s tiebreaker. Billy Walters added an empty-netter after he was tripped up and still managed to direct the puck into the net. Goalie Austin Dendl made 21 saves and was named Nanaimo’s player of the game.
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Harris said winning the opener means a lot, especially considering the opponent, and is a good start for a Bucs team that’s building.
“It’s coming along. We’ve still got some things to work on, but that’s for every team at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We should be a good team.”
GAME ON … The Buccaneers visit the Oceanside Generals on Saturday, Sept. 8, in Parksville. Next home action is Thursday, Sept. 13, when the Kerry Park Islanders visit the NIC for a 7:15 p.m. faceoff.