Heat, familiar faces torch Storm

Kevin Leschuk's smile said it all.

Leschuk, a Chase Heat forward, set up Isaac Willard's winning goal as the Heat beat the Kamloops Storm 5-4 in double overtime in a Sunday KIJHL game at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.

It is only the third victory of the season for the expansion Heat, but it was a well-deserved one after a chippy, physical game.

Leschuk, who left the Storm in November and asked to be traded to the Heat, is one of four Chase players to have played for Kamloops. And for all four men - Leschuk, goaltender Jacob Mattes and forwards Dylan Richardson and Austin Braid - this victory was as sweet as they come.

"It feels awesome," said Leschuk, 18. "I especially felt that (Storm players) were gunning for me and the other guys that played for them. But it was a lot of fun, to be honest."

Kamloops (25-6-1-4) is on its Christmas vacation, and will return to the ice on Jan. 6 in Summerland.

You can bet the Storm will be glad to see December end - Kamloops, which entered the month leading the KIJHL, went 2-3-1-2, including a 3-2 victory over the visiting Sicamous Eagles on Saturday night.

Kamloops jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead on Chase, but gave it right back. The Storm also had a 4-3 lead in the third, but the resilient Heat had no trouble replying.

"They're a hard-working team, they have been all year," said Storm head coach Geoff Smith. "It was a good game, back-and-forth, and they've got a lot of fans here."

But if Sunday's game will be remembered for anything, it likely won't be Willard's overtime winner - it will be the penalties and chippiness.

The teams combined on 180 penalty minutes, no small feat considering referee Mike Langin didn't hand out any majors.
Even the game-winner came with a man in the box - Chase was shorthanded after having killed off a minute of 5-on-3 play.

In the on-ice celebration following the goal, Storm defenceman Daniel Buchanan appeared to be spearing someone inside the pile of Heat players.

"Every game we've played against them, it's always been chippy . . . intense, lots of hitting," Leschuk said. "It's turning into a pretty good rivalry."

Kamloops, which was without captain Tyler Jackson, who is sick, got two goals from Colten DeFrias and singles from Scott Freberg and Chase Edwards.

Jared Seutter, Mark Boyce, Mitchell Rosko and Owen Barker also scored for Chase, and all four former Storm players made the scoresheet.

Leschuk had two assists, while Braid managed to get kicked out for checking from behind 53 seconds into the game. Richardson picked up 34 penalty minutes and Mattes was incredible, stopping 46 shots.

Mattes, whose brother, Levi, dressed as an affiliate player for Kamloops, made an exceptional pad save on the Buchanan midway through the second overtime, setting up Willard's heroics.

"We had chances, but Jake Mattes played really well," Smith said. "He had a strong game and held them in there."
Niall MacGregor made 42 saves for Kamloops.

On Saturday, Diego Cuglietta scored a goal and added two helpers. Josh Rasmussen and Blake Culbert each added a goal, with Edwards adding two assists.

Connor Fynn and Terran Cavanaugh had the goals for Sicamous, whose goaltender, Kris Drott, stopped 41 shots.

In his Storm debut, goaltender Marcus Beesley made 31 saves. Beesley, a former Nelson Leafs goaltender, had been with the BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Storm was without DeFrias, who was suspended after an altercation in a 5-3 loss to the Posse in Princeton on Friday, and defenceman Zach Tjader, who was assessed a match penalty for eye-gouging during that same altercation.

Because he was given a match penalty, Tjader will sit out at least three games, but it could be more based on what the league decides.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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