Playing in a nine-team league, the Nanaimo Buccaneers are going to face their divisional rival a lot of times during any given season.
For a young Bucs team, it’s a good thing in a lot of ways to face the division-leading Campbell River Storm so often.
“You focus on trying to beat Campbell River, but you’re also focused on getting all your kids better every single day,” said Dan Lemmon, Buccaneers coach. “We like to see where we stack up against them early on in the season and we’ll pay attention to where we’re stacking up to them later on in the season.”
The Storm beat the Bucs 4-2 Thursday at the Nanaimo Ice Centre and the teams play a rematch Friday (Oct. 7) up Island.
Thursday’s game was closely contested – the Bucs actually thought they tied it 2-2 late in the third, but the puck didn’t quite make it across the goal line. The Storm went on to score a power-play marker and an empty netter and the Bucs responded with a late tally.
“I think we stacked up pretty well tonight,” Lemmon said. “I don’t think we’re far off being right there with Campbell River and that’s a team that we’re going to have to beat to have success in the playoffs and we all know that.”
John Hawthorne, Buccaneers goalie, said he thinks his team is “really close” to the Storm and said Thursday’s score shows that.
“I think all in all we can be happy with that effort,” he said. “It’s tough to have moral victories now, but I think with that said, I think we played a pretty good game.”
Lemmon said the work ethic and effort were there on Thursday and suggested it was lack of discipline that was the team’s downfall.
“It’s a learning experience for our young guys and in hockey you’ve got to be able to take a shot, you’ve got to be able to take a beak and we’re still going through the process of figuring that out.”
The Bucs are also adjusting to a roster in transition. Three newcomers were added last week – forward Brady Chin came to Nanaimo from Campbell River, forward Nate Castonguay was acquired from the Mission City Outlaws and goalie Matt Lukacs was brought in from the Prairies.
Lemmon, who is also Nanaimo’s GM, said he’s always looking to make moves and the Bucs’ slow start in the standings was also a motivator. He wants enough players on the roster so that there will need to be healthy scratches every game.
“Whenever you have a full roster … then guys are competing for ice time, guys are competing hard at practice. The compete level goes up, obviously, on a team,” the coach said. “Guys are starting to look around and say, ‘Is my job secure?’ and then they’re giving you their best effort.”
Jayden Schubert, a veteran forward on the Buccaneers, said there are a lot of young guys this year and so there has been an adjustment period.
“But now they’re all coming along, we’re a good team, everybody likes each other,” he said. “So I feel like there’s a lot to look forward to this year and we’ve got a lot of potential.”
Lemmon said he’s seeing improvement every game.
“So we’re trending upwards…” he said. “Hard work will pay off and we’re getting better every day and we’re learning, so that’s the key.”
Patrick Poets and Schubert scored in Thursday’s loss and Hawthorne made 34 saves in defeat.
GAME ON … Next week the Bucs visit the Westshore Wolves on Wednesday (Oct. 12), host the Saanich Braves on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre and then head up Island to take on the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Saturday.