Special to the Record
After over a week of waiting, the anticipated Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League North Division are set to begin as the Comox Valley Glacier Kings prepare to face off against the Nanaimo Buccaneers.
Game 1 goes March 5 in Nanaimo, Game 2 is March 7 in Nanaimo, Game 3 is March 9 in Courtenay and Game 4 is March 12 in Courtenay. If needed, Game 5 is March 14 in Nanaimo, Game 6 is March 16 in Courtenay and Game 7 is March 17 in Nanaimo.
With both teams sweeping their semifinal series, the nine-day hiatus leaves little room for excuses from either camp with respect to expectations for a fast-paced, high-intensity series.
Regular Season Results
If the regular season is any indicator, this series is destined to have fans writhing in their seats with excitement.
The season series was split 5-5, with Nanaimo taking the first two games of the season.
The Glacier Kings outscored the Buccs 35-30, and outshot them 284 to 263, however Nanaimo had the edge in overall points for the season, with 58 points over the ‘Kings 47. It’s tough to determine who took the edge in the series, as the Glacier Kings were plagued with significant injuries throughout the season. But it’s fair to say neither team has faced each other’s full, healthy lineups.
Both teams are coming off their first series with solid, four-straight win performances.
Comox Valley outscored their opponents 20-6 (+14) while Nanaimo was close, outscoring their opposition 18-5 (+13).
Goaltending was imperative to both teams’ series success, as well as regular season victories. In four starts, Comox’s Michael Hails was a solid 1.50 GAA and a .938 Save Percentage. In two starts, Nanaimo’s Ryley Medves had identical numbers as Hails in both categories, while Cameron Large, who has had ups and downs against his former club during regular season play, was 2-0 in the playoffs with a 1.00 GAA and .960 Save Percentage.
With both teams having solid netminders, this series will certainly produce some tight games.
Defensively, both teams proved to be solid in their first round of playoff action, and in regular season play.
Nanaimo’s defence was sufficient during the regular season, allowing only 150 goals against (3.125 per game), which is 31 goals less than the Glacier Kings’ 181. In the regular season series against each other, it was a reversal though, as Nanaimo allowed an average of 3.5 goals against per game, while the ‘Kings allowed only an average of three.
Although these numbers are more team specific, when you put the back ends under the microscope, it is hard not to give Comox Valley a strong edge in this department. With six of their seven defenscmen standing over six feet tall, including 6’,5” captain Nicholas Tupper, the Glacier Kings’ zone will surely be a tough place to play in for the opposition.
In addition to Tupper, Comox has a variety of resources on the blue line at their disposal, including the well-rounded Patrick Croome, the physical presence of Garrett Halls, and defensive stalwarts Cody Eliason, Calvin Hadley and Max Crawford. In addition, the Glacier Kings only defenceman that doesn’t reach the six foot mark is the smooth BCHL veteran Brandon Halls. In the division semifinals, the G-Kings’ defence contributed 17 points as opposed to Nanaimo’s eight.
The Glacier Kings should not be too quick to dismiss Nanaimo’s defence as Derian Hamilton, Noah Russi and Quentin McShane have the ability to make big plays. Look for the Glacier Kings to be using their defence to try to gain the advantage.
With the exception of two blowouts by the Glacier Kings (6-2 and 6-1 consecutively) over the Buccs, the games in the regular season series were all won within a two-goal margin, with the majority only one goal.
Both teams have players that can put the puck in the net, with Nanaimo possessing Rookie of the Year Garrett Dunlop and veteran Beau Blanaru. Both players were an integral part of Nanaimo’s first-round sweep of Kerry Park, and both players outscored all Comox Valley players at 10 and nine points, respectively. Forward Will McNamara is third in points for the Buccaneers with five points in four games.
As you dig deeper, beyond Nanaimo’s top pair there is a drop off.
Not so with the Glacier Kings, when you consider forward Rylan Ball who leads all Yetis with seven goals in the post season while Andrew White, Michael Pond, Jack Kennelly and Wade Bartlett are all scoring at a pace over one point per game (defencemen Brandon Halls and Garrett Halls are also in the point-per-game club).
It will be a matter of whether Nanaimo’s top line can compete with the Glacier Kings’ depth up front. Look for Nanaimo to expect big things out of their top line, and the Glacier Kings to work a well-balanced attack.
In the season series, both teams were relatively ineffective on the power play (or excellent on the penalty kill, depending on your view). The Glacier Kings went 6-for-42 (14.2%), while the Bucc’s were 6-for-51 (11.7%). Both teams have developed their special teams a great deal over the course of the season.
In the division semifinals both teams had eight power play goals. The Glacier Kings were ranked second with a 36.36% power play efficiency, while Nanaimo was third at 29.63%.
On the penalty kill, Nanaimo was ranked third in the playoffs, going 19-for-21 for an impressive 90.48%. The Glacier Kings were incredibly stingy, ranking first on the penalty kill allowing no penalty kill goals at all.
Both teams are structured and play a disciplined style.
When asked about recent media regarding the two teams meeting in the playoffs, Yetis’ head coach Bill Rotheisler said, “We don’t pay attention to what other teams are saying, we are focused on our game.
“We know we play a disciplined, structured game and we know we have to play strong defensively to win. We have a great deal of respect for what Nanaimo has accomplished, and we have been preparing to play them since we’ve advanced to the North Island finals. This will be a good series, but we are fully prepared.”
Overall, it should prove to be an exciting series. With the teams evenly matched as far as numbers go, expect this to be a series of who wants it more. Percentages don’t factor in heart, experience and a drive to win.
Robyn Nicholson is the public relations director of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings