Most people use the weekends in Jan. to relax after a crazy Christmas season, but the hockey world is anything but quiet. Oceanside kicked off their busiest weekend of the season on Jan. 13 as hosts of the 2013 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) All Star Classic.

Each year the VIJHL puts on the Classic as a full day event. The day includes a prospects game for rookies, a skills competition for players to showcase their individual skills, and an All Star game with the most talented players on the Island.

Oceanside General forward and VIU student Cam McCarrick was selected to the All Star game in his final season of junior hockey and was happy with how the weekend played out.

“I felt like the All Star festivities were an all-around great time,” McCarrick says. “It was nice to have tons of skilled players come together to have a good time and provide some pretty good entertainment for the fans!”

The VIJHL is made up of nine Junior B teams that are split into the North and South Island divisions. South Island consists of the Kerry Park Islanders, Saanich Braves, Victoria Cougars, Peninsula Panthers, and the Westshore Wolves, while the North Island features the Nanaimo Buccaneers, Oceanside Generals, Comox Valley Glacier Kings, and the Campbell River Storm. From these teams the top 32 young gun players represented their teams in the prospects game and the top 40 players for the All Star game.

In the prospects game the players only had two 30 minute run time periods to show the fans and fellow teammates what they had to offer. The game was more of a pond hockey style rather than the classic format the players were used to. The teams had specific instructions for no body checking, that penalty calls would result in a penalty shot, and the game was to be played 4-on-4.

The five players representing the Nanaimo Buccaneers were defenseman Jake Calverley, forwards Will McNamara, Garrett Dunlop, Lynden Eddy, and goaltender Riley Medves. Calverley led the starting lineup, wearing the captain’s “C” on his jersey, along with the three Buc’s forwards.

Dunlop beat Panthers goalie Stephen Heslop to open the scoring for Team North, but the South took a commanding 5–2 lead after the first period. Despite a strong effort from the North, Team South held on through the second half and came out on top with a 9–6 victory.

The All Star game was standard format with three 20 minute stop time periods of 5-on-5, contact hockey, and penalties were a typical trip to the box. Nanaimo’s six players elected to Team North were goaltender Cameron Large, defensemen Darian Hamilton and Quentin McShane, and forwards Johnathan Speer, Beau Blanaru, and Dan Foglietta.

Team South was the favourite team going into the game with ten of the top 20 VIJHL scoring leaders on their roster, but anyone who wrote the North off early were certainly surprised. Michael Fretz of Oceanside opened the scoring on a penalty shot just 44 seconds into the game, but, with less than six minutes left in the second period, Westshore forward Kyle Richter tied the game at one. The North scored three unanswered goals and took the game with a 4–1 victory.

“The All Star game was a great experience and it was nice to come out on top over the heavily favoured South Island All Stars,” McCarrick says.

“There were a lot of skills being shown and it actually turned into a decently physical game as well, something I wasn’t quite expecting but enjoyed it. I feel like the physical contact made it more like a real game and made it more exciting for the fans to watch.”

The outstanding goaltending of Oceanside’s Kiefer Giroux and Nanaimo’s Cameron Large was key, as both made game changing saves to earn their team the win.

“Getting offered a spot in the All Star game as a 20-year-old for my last year in junior was a big accomplishment and really a privilege to be able to play in,” Large says. “The game itself was fun for me and playing with lots of guys I’ve either played with or against for the past couple years made it even better.”

Despite an exciting weekend, Large is ready to return to his first-place Buccaneers and focus on the remainder of the season.

“Although it’s been a fun weekend there is still a lot of work to be done and getting back to practice today with high tempo and work ethic was much needed. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and the battles we still have left to play with my team.”

The Buccaneers next game is Thursday, Jan. 23 at home against Campbell River before travelling to Peninsula on Friday.

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