The Nanaimo Buccaneers gave themselves every chance to achieve their goals.
The junior B hockey club is in off-season mode now after its playoff run came to an end two weeks ago in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s North Division final.
The Bucs lost the series in five games to the Campbell River Storm.
“We played some real good hockey. We made a few mistakes, obviously, and they’re a team that when you make some mistakes, they’ve got the guys that can capitalize,” said Dan Lemmon, Buccaneers coach and general manager. “I’m really proud of our effort … in the end it wasn’t enough, we kind of ran out of steam in that last game.”
He thought the Buccaneers, with the way they finished off their first-round series against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, were ready for the challenge of the North final. But although all lines played hard, they weren’t all able to contribute to the extent necessary, the coach said.
“Maybe we ran our top guys a little bit too much to try to win some of the early games in that [second-round] series,” Lemmon said. “I thought we had really good depth, but we didn’t seem to be able to get 20 guys on page every night and that’s something that you need.”
The Buccaneers established a new franchise record for wins in 2016-17 with 31. Lemmon was VIJHL Coach of the Year. Dawson Heathcote was the VIJHL’s Rookie of the Year and fifth in league scoring with 54 points and Chad Bell was fifth in goals with 25. Goalie John Hawthorne was second in the league in wins (20) and save percentage (.915) and third in goals-against average (2.71).
“Overall it was a great season and a building block for this team to keep getting better and hopefully next year we’ll be able to win that North final that we haven’t been able to,” Lemmon said.
Several players will move on to college, junior A or major junior hockey, but much of the core is expected back. The Bucs will hold a tryout camp in May and Lemmon said there’s a lot of midget-aged talent on the Island to help bolster the roster.
“I expect us to be determined and a very good team next year,” he said.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) March 23, 2017