The Comox Valley Glacier Kings stole home ice advantage away from the Nanaimo Buccaneers by winning the first game of their best-of-seven Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League North Division playoff series 2-1 Tuesday night in Nanaimo.
The Yetis rallied from a 1-0 second period deficit with two third period tallies. Rylan Ball tied the game with 7:01 left and Andrew White broke the Bucs’ hearts with the game winner at the 18:59 mark.
A nine-day hockey hiatus had the Glacier Kings looking flat in the first period. Undisciplined and sloppy play limited the ‘Kings to only five shots on goal to Nanaimo’s eight. Despite having the first one-man advantage the Icemen were unable to capitalize on it.
The game continued with three consecutive power plays for the Bucs before the first intermission. The outstanding skills of ‘Kings netminder Michael Hails kept the game scoreless.
The second period saw life back in the front end of the Glacier Kings as more offensive opportunities were created by all lines. Although controlling most of the period, they
continued undisciplined play, resulting in the Bucs scoring the first goal of the division final courtesy of Noah Russi, and the Yetis first goal given up on the penalty kill.
Down a goal and frustrated with the first 40 minutes of play, the gritty Glacier Kings returned to the ice rejuvenated and determined to play their game. The Yetis overwhelmed the Bucs, creating multiple scoring opportunities only to be denied by netminder Cam Large.
Their dominant play resulted in the only two power plays of the third period. However, the score remained 1-0 after both one-man advantages.
With 7:01 remaining Ball entered the Bucs’ zone and threw a wrist shot on net that finally solved Large. With the Glacier Kings hitting full stride, and the deadlocked game winding down, White grabbed his own rebound and buried it
behind Large with 1:01 remaining in regulation for the comeback win.
“It was like a 40-minute warm up, and then the real game for us,” said Glacier Kings’ head coach Bill Rotheisler. “We are going to have to have stronger opening shifts next game to set the tone instead of having to sway it.
“I give our boys a lot of credit for getting through their bus legs, finding their game, and engaging in and winning battles in the third,” Rotheisler said.
“We had the lead a long way through…” said Glen Smith, Bucs’ assistant coach. “It was disappointing not to at least go into overtime.” Smith said the Buccaneers will need to try to create more offence moving forward.
“We need to get more pucks to the net, we need to get in front of the net with more traffic.” He noted the Glacier Kings are a tough team and an experienced team, and said the Bucs know they’re in for a battle.
The Yetis outshot the Bucs 36-25 with Large earning second star and Hails named third star. Hails’ record for the playoffs is 5-0 with a 1.40 GAA, and .942 save percentage. Ball, the game’s first star, leads the Glacier Kings and the North Division with 10 points (8g, 2a).
Game two is at the Nanaimo Ice Centre on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. The Glacier Kings play their first home game of the series on Saturday, March 9 at the Comox Valley Sports
Centre with game time 7:30 p.m. Game four goes Tuesday, March 12 with a 7:45 p.m. puck drop at the Sports Centre.
– with files from the Comox Valley Glacier Kings and Nanaimo News Bulletin