From the outside looking in, few will give the Port Alberni Bombers much of a chance against the juggernaut that is the Oceanside Generals. To be clear, this is David vs Goliath on ice.
The Oceanside Generals finished the 22-23 VIJHL season with just 3 losses. They posted a league-best record of 41-3-2-2. They were 16 points ahead of 2nd place Campbell River in the North Division, and 13 points ahead of the Victoria Cougars for the overall regular season crown.
During the season series, the Generals swept the Bombers with a record of 6-0-0-0. The Bombers fought hard against the Generals all season, and outside of a couple blow out losses, they were very much in 4 of the 6 games.
While all of this points to an easy Generals series win, the same was said a year ago when the Bombers snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and took on the 1st place Campbell River Storm. The Storm went 40-4-2-0 during the 21-22 regular season and nobody gave the Bombers a chance. Before you could say Campbell River Storm, the Bombers were playing at the Brindy in Game 7. The series was an incredible display of teamwork and some special goaltending from Callum Tung.
With Tung moving on to Jr A, the Bombers had one of the top goaltending tandems in the VIJHL with Felix Plendl and Lucas Toth. Toth finished tied for 5th with a .910 save percentage, while Plendl finished 2nd to the Generals Matthew Hutchinson with a .921 sv %.
Offensively, the General are led by the leagues run-away scoring champ in Carter Johnson. The 20-year old from Winnipeg had 43 goals and 60 assists for 103 points in just 42 games. It was as dominant a season as one could hope to have. Johnson won the scoring title with a 24 point edge over 2nd place Ryan Grambart of the Panthers. Brendan Carlson added 25 goals and 47 assists on the back end to lead all VIJHL defenceman.
The Bombers were led by Chase Pacheco’s 26 goals and 46 points. Aidan See, Carson Steel and Blake Power have the ability to contribute on a nightly basis, while Jackson Payeur has a point shot that can cause all kinds of trouble for the Generals. Payeur scored 10 goals on the season and was named the Bombers top defenceman for the season.
The Generals have won 23 straight games heading into tonight, and heck, they haven’t even lost 4 games this entire season. This will require another tremendous effort by the Bombers to compete with Oceanside. The good news is that they don’t have to look very far back to find a little inspiration.
Tickets are on sale for Game 2 back in Port Alberni on Thursday. Adults are $10, while youth are just $5. Local youth are no-charge when accompanied by an adult thanks as always to the San Group.