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Kamloops Storm increase lead atop KIJHL standings with victory over visiting Chase Heat

League-leading Kamloops (9-2) has won six straight games and holds an eight-point lead atop the Doug Birks Division
1 Kasey Jackson (17) is set up in front of Brandon Weare (31) but can't get it over him from in close_2210
Kasey Jackson (left) and the Kamloops Storm have an eight-point lead atop the Doug Birks Division.

Jayden Russell pancaked Malachi Franklin and towered over the flattened Chase Heat blue liner, basking in the battering for an extra half-second of flex appeal, playing to the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre crowd.

Russell’s bodycheck coincided with the horn that sounded to signal the end of the first period of a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League contest, the Friday night game his Kamloops Storm won 4-1.

The flapjack-frame-finale moment was a taste of the junior B club’s delectable start to the campaign — something special might be on the griddle.

League-leading Kamloops (9-2) has won six straight games and holds an eight-point lead atop the Doug Birks Division.

“They’re pretty complete,” Heat head coach Brad Fox said of the Storm. “That’s a good hockey team over there. Everybody plays the same way. When you’ve got everybody playing the same way, you’ve got good identity. That’s what we’re after. Over the course of the year, we’ll be OK. We’ll be there.”

Heat goaltender Jack Osmond was called into action early and often, making several fine stops to weather a Storm flurry that blew in with puck-drop, but the home team persisted and broke through at 8:49 of the first period.

Evan Clark whistled a dynamite feed to Zakery Anderson, the Storm’s leading scorer.

“[Kyle] Sanford was grinding in the corner, the puck popped up, I grabbed it, went around the net, saw Zak in the slot and just hit him and he buried like always,” said Clark, who recorded two assists on Friday.

Added Anderson: “I noticed their D was following us into the corners, so I just found the open spot in the middle, got a great pass from Clarky and just put it in.”

Anderson has eight goals and 12 points in 11 games this season.

“I think we’re buying into our system,” Anderson said. “We’re always getting five guys back to the house. It starts in our D zone — play hard in our D zone, get it out and that generates the offence.”

The Heat outplayed the Storm in the second period and drew level early in the frame, when Dylan Handel tallied his first goal of the season.

Chase outshot Kamloops 17-11 in the period, but could only get one puck past Colton Phillips-Watts, the Storm netminder who stopped 29 shots to pick up his seventh win of the season.

Osmond, who made 34 saves in a losing effort, was not given much help on the Storm’s second goal.

Kamloops defenceman Owen Cupello’s educated lofty dump pass cleared his zone and set up a 2-on-1 the other way.

Clark had ample time to set up Mason Svarich, who showed patience in finishing, hanging onto the puck long enough to see Osmond slide out of position before tucking it home.

Svarich’s goal at 3:53 of the second period gave Kamloops a 2-1 lead.

“To be honest, I thought we really struggled for 40 minutes,” Storm head coach Geoff Grimwood said. “It was a little bit erratic. We had the ability to break the game open in the third.”

Svarich raced down the right wing and unleashed a crisp snap shot that beat Osmond clean two minutes into the third period.

Cole Senum’s third goal of the campaign put Kamloops out of reach, a sprinkle of icing sugar on the pancake.

“The boys are buzzing right now,” said Clark, whose Storm played in front of 325 fans on Friday.

Doug Birks Division standings: Kamloops (9-2-0-0), Chase (4-2-2-0), Revelstoke (5-4-0-0), 100 Mile House (2-5-0-0) and Sicamous (1-5-0-0).

Kamloops is scheduled to play next on Friday, Nov. 5, when the Revelstoke Grizzlies come to town. Game time is 7 p.m. on Mac Isle.

“We want to put people in the building,” Grimwood said. “It’s a great product. They’re great kids. We’re probably 90 per cent local [players on the roster]. We’d love to see the fans jam in here.”