The Lake Cowichan Kraken faced the teams with the best and worst records in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s North Division this past weekend, and there was nothing surprising about the final results.
The Kraken visited the first-place Campbell River Storm on Friday, and came away with a 7-2 loss. On Saturday, the Kraken prevailed 5-3 as they played host to the sixth-place Nanaimo Buccaneers.
Aiden Eddy had a goal and an assist on Friday, and recent acquisition Mitchell Billings scored his first goal for Lake Cowichan, but the Storm beat the Kraken for the fourth straight time this season.
No one scored in the first period, then the Storm scored three times in the second before Eddy got the Kraken on the board. Campbell River scored another four in the third before Billings scored on the powerplay. Lake Cowichan goalie Josh Robins stopped 53 pucks as the Kraken were outshot 60-30.
“We had a couple of suspensions, a couple guys hurt, and we went into their barn,” Kraken head coach Dan Whiteford said. “We played our own game for a bit, then we went off script, and Campbell River punishes you for that.
“The boys tried hard; they worked hard, but we’ve got to stick to our structure no matter who we’re playing against and do what makes us successful.”
The Storm have won 17 of their 19 games so far this season, including all four against the Kraken, but Whiteford is confident his team will get them eventually.
“Obviously, they’re an extremely well-coached, talented team, but we’ve stuck with them for the most part of all four games — the first part of the game, at least. When we have our full lineup and a full buy-in, it will definitely make those games a lot closer than they look on the scoresheets.”
Billings had two goals and an assist and Brayden Ganter, who came to the Kraken in the same trade with the Buccaneers on Oct. 18, added two assists as Lake Cowichan held off Nanaimo on Saturday.
“They were obviously a little bit more pumped up to play that game than some of the others were,” Whiteford commented. “Ganter gives us something we were missing on our back end: a solid, rugged defenceman with a heavy shot, a heavy body with some physicality. Billings will be one of our leaders; he’s an offensive guy, a 200-foot guy.”
Nanaimo scored the only goal of the first period, but Billings tied the score with a powerplay goal at 6:13 of the second. Defenceman Carter Anderson gave the Kraken their first lead of the night at 8:40 of the second, but the Bucs replied 24 seconds later. When Billings scored again at 19:33 of the second, the Bucs got that one back just 22 seconds later. Jaxon Krupa put Lake Cowichan up for good at 7:14 of the third, and Eddy added a late insurance marker.
Blueliner Dallas Brown had two assists, and goalie Brendan Wilson made 30 saves for his first VIJHL win.
The Bucs are still looking for their first win of the 2021-22 campaign, but they are improving, Whiteford cautioned.
“They have a new coach who’s got them working hard,” Whiteford said. “This was not a game we can look past. It was one we had to focus on. And it took maybe the first 45 minutes of the game for that to sink in. In the long run, it was one of those games where you know you can play better but you’re definitely happy you came out with two points.
The Kraken will visit Nanaimo this Thursday, then play host to Campbell River on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. They will visit the Port Alberni Bombers next Wednesday.