Ben Chessor
The Navigator

Brendan DeVries celebrates his goal early in the second period of Campbell River’s 11-3 win over Nanaimo. Photo by Jay Stevenson

The Nanaimo Buccaneers continue to struggle as their season reaches its stretch drive. Nanaimo came up short in big games against divisional opponents in the last few weeks. As a result, the Buccaneers now find themselves in third place in the four-team Island’s North Division.

On Thursday, January 9, the Buccaneers took on the Campbell River Storm at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. The Buccaneers were looking to avenge a 7-1 loss the last time the two teams played.

The Buccaneers played well at the start of the game, but it was the Storm that opened the scoring with Brayden Taekema’s league-leading 29th goal of the season seven minutes into the game. Gavin Rauser and Brenden DeVries also scored for Campbell River to give the Storm a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. After DeVries added his second goal of the game to make it 4-0, Nanaimo started to mount a comeback.

The newly-acquired Garett Brandsma got Nanaimo on the board in his first game as a Buccaneer at 6:26 to cut the Storm lead to 4-1. 34 seconds later, Brandsma scored his second of the game to make it 4-2. Garett Dunlop looked like he had scored just moments later, but his shot hit the crossbar behind Storm goaltender Jack Surgenor. The referee signaled that the puck crossed the line, but after the officials talked it over, the puck was ruled to have never crossed the line and the score stayed 4-2.

The Buccaneers seemed deflated by the disallowed goal, and Campbell River took full advantage. The Storm added three more goals before the end of the second period, including two by Taekema to extend the Storm lead to 7-2. Campbell River added four more goals in the third period to win by a final score of 11-3. Nick White scored the Buccaneers’ third goal halfway through the third period. Campbell River has now won three of the last four games against the Buccaneers, outscoring them 27-10 over the four games.

The Buccaneers’ next game was on Sunday, January 12, against the league-leading Victoria Cougars. After a scoreless first period, Ryan Carson gave Victoria the 1-0 lead at 4:59 of the second period. The score remained until the final seven minutes of the game. Carson added his second of the game at 13:31 of the third period and added another three minutes later to give Victoria the 3-0 lead and the victory. After outshooting Victoria 9-8 in the first period, the Buccaneers could only manage four shots in the final two periods against Victoria starter Connor Beauchamp. Beauchamp made 13 saves picking up his seventh shutout of the season.

The Buccaneers were back on home ice on Thursday, January 16, for a game against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. All the scoring in this game took place in the second period. First, Ali Gotmy scored his 17th of the season at 6:35 to give Comox a 1-0 lead. Nanaimo tied the game on the powerplay thanks to Rowan Siiders’ first goal as a Buccaneer at 12:05, but the tie was short-lived. Just 33 seconds later, Gotmy scored his second goal of the game to put Comox back in front 2-1. The Buccaneers were under pressure for the last 28 minutes of the hockey game, but they couldn’t beat Michael Hails who made 24 saves in a 2-1 Comox win.

The Buccaneers have now lost four straight games and have just two wins in their last nine games. Their struggles have seen them fall to third place in the VIJHL’s North Division for the first time this season. Nanaimo’s next home game is on January 23 against the Oceanside Generals at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Puck drops at 7:15pm.