The Nanaimo Buccaneers are off to a perfect 7-0 start to begin the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season, and the second in team history. The Buccaneers kicked off the season on September 1 with a 4-1 at home over the visiting Campbell River Storm. Since the opener, the team cursed through the early part of the season. The Buccaneers have outscored the opposition 36-11 over their first seven games. The perfect start has given the Buccaneers first place in the VIJHL North division with 14 points, six clear of second place Campbell River.
Last season was the Buccaneers’ first in the VIJHL. They finished the regular season with a record of 27-17-4. Their 58 points were enough to capture the league’s North Island division. The Buccaneers also managed to win their first playoff series in franchise history, as the team swept the Kerry Park Islanders in the first round of the playoffs last year. Unfortunately, the team was eliminated in six games by the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in the second round.
A large contingent of last year’s team returns for another try at the league championship this year. 17 players from last year’s team are back on the roster this year. The team’s top five scorers from last season are back for another shot at the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy and a spot to compete for the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
The Buccaneers’ offense has been filling the net early in the season. They have scored five or more goals in four of their first seven games to start the season, only once failing to score more than three goals in a game. The team’s leading offensive weapons are forwards Garrett Dunlop and Will McNamara.
Dunlop leads the team with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in six games to start the season. McNamara is second with 12 points (4G, 8A) in his first seven games of the young season. The duo was also the team’s leading scorers last season, and both are on pace to easily eclipse last season’s totals. Dunlop even suited up with the Nanaimo Clippers for two games during the team’s appearance in the inaugural Western Canada Cup, which the city hosted last season. All together, the team has 11 forwards returning from last year’s roster. With such a veteran group returning this season, goal scoring shouldn’t be a problem for the team as the season progresses.
The only thing that’s been stronger than the Buccaneers’ offense this season has been the defense. The back end, which has five players returning from last season, is led by captain Noah Russi. The Oceanside native, who came to the Buccaneers last season from the Oceanside Generals, has been strong on the blueline since his arrival. Russi is strong in both ends of the ice, finishing second in team scoring amongst defensemen with four goals and 23 points in 44 games last season. Last year’s leading scorer amongst defensemen, Derian Hamilton, is also back for another season with the team. The team is backed by goalie Ryan Waldhaus. The 20-year-old goaltender is back for his second season with the team, after appearing in two games last season. So far, Waldhaus has been stellar on the season, recording a perfect 5-0 record with a G.A.A of .80, and a SV% of .969. The Buccaneers have allowed the only 11 goals in their seven games played, which is the least goals allowed in the league.
The Buccaneers play their home games at the Nanaimo Ice Centre, below the VIU campus. Most of the team’s 24 home games are on Thursday evenings. The puck drops at 7:15pm. Tickets are available at the gate and are $8 for students. Much of the team is made up of VIU students, so this is a great chance for students to get out, cheer, and enjoy good hockey for a great price.