Nanaimo Buccaneers players including Dylan Hartl, left, Lucas Patton, Braydon Nelson and Spencer Deakin keep the puck out in the final moments of Thursday’s VIJHL game against the Campbell River Storm. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Buccaneers hold on to beat first-place Storm

Nanaimo Buccaneers edged the Campbell River Storm by a 3-2 score Thursday at the NIC

The Nanaimo Buccaneers were better than the league’s first-place team, and that earned them a win.

The Bucs beat the Campbell River Storm by a 3-2 score Thursday night in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

“I thought we played great,” said Josh Zary, who scored twice for Nanaimo. “We came out hard in the first five, really set the tone early. It was nice to get two goals right away … and then we just shut them down the rest of the game and didn’t let them have much.”

Buccaneers coach Curtis Toneff noted that the Storm didn’t have all their guys, but he liked a lot of what his team was doing with good puck control, smart decision-making and physicality.

“I thought from the drop of the puck that we were the heavier team and we controlled the pace of the game,” Toneff said.

Zary said in the offensive zone, “simple stuff” was what worked.

“I think when we pass the puck and make plays, that’s when we’re at our best,” he said.

Zary’s two goals give him 20 for the season, most in the VIJHL. He said it’s been awesome to play with the guys he’s gotten to play with and things have been working well this fall.

“They’re making awesome plays and I’m just being in the right spots at the right time,” he said.

Trey Watson had Nanaimo’s other goal and Spencer Deakin, playing goal against his former team, made 23 saves for the win.

Nanaimo has just one more game in 2019 and it comes a week from now, a rematch against the Storm, also at the NIC.

“To take care of this one is huge, but no one’s going to remember this one if we don’t do it [again] in the one before the Christmas break,” Toneff said.

Zary said the Buccaneers are prepared to keep focus the way they need to to end fall the right way.

“We’re looking into next week and we can’t really look past that and look forward to Christmas [yet] – if we have a good game, then I think we’re going to have fun during the break,” he said.

GAME ON … The Buccaneers and Storm play Thursday, Dec. 20, at 7:15 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

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