Early progress is encouraging Kamloops Storm head coach Geoff Grimwood.
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League club is 4-2 and sits second in Doug Birks Division standings ahead of an early-season, measuring-stick game against the Revelstoke Grizzlies, a 7:30 p.m. start on Tuesday on Mac Isle.
“I still think through six games, they’re the best team we’ve seen,” Grimwood said of the Grizzlies (3-2), who blanked the Storm 3-0 on Oct. 2 in Kamloops.
“Their record is not jumping off the page, but for my money, I think they’re the best team in the league.”
The Storm have scored by committee and nine of their 10 top scorers are from Kamloops, including Zakery Anderson, who leads the way with eight points, including six goals, in six games.
Grimwood on Anderson: “He’s a little bit slippery, a little bit greasy. The work ethic is really good. And it sounds really simple, but he shoots the puck. A lot of guys, they get into the slot and they want to overhandle it. He’s got the ability to grab it and rip it.”
Added Anderson: "That's the way I've always been. Sometimes, overhandling the puck, I just lose it. I like to grab it and shoot right away."
The Storm’s power play is tied for fifth in the league, clicking at 23.8 per cent, and has accounted for 10 goals, the second-most power-play markers in the KIJHL.
“If you’re not playing well, sometimes your power play can buy you out of trouble,” Grimwood said. “There are a lot of players on our third and fourth lines who haven’t found the back of the net yet, but I think they will as we keep going.”
Kamloops is expecting its inexperienced blue line to fight through growing pains early in the campaign.
The club has allowed 19 goals in six games, the fifth-most in the KIJHL.
“Last weekend was our best weekend in terms of goals against,” said Grimwood, whose club fell 3-1 to visiting Kelowna on Friday and bested hometown Princeton 4-1 on Saturday.
“That’s a function of pretty good goaltending and guys getting more comfortable on defence.”
Colton Phillips-Watts, an 18-year-old goaltender from Quesnel, has played in five games for Kamloops, posting a 3-2 record, .874 save percentage and 3.14 goals-against average.
Recent addition Cody Creasy, an 18-year-old backstop from Brandon, got the start in Princeton, stopping 18 shots to pick up the victory in his Storm debut.
“Colton’s been good, so we felt very comfortable having him in there every night,” Grimwood said. “Over the long haul, we’re going to have a two-guy system.”
Doug Birks Division standings: Chase (4-1-1-0), Kamloops (4-2), Revelstoke (3-2), 100 Mile House (1-3) and Sicamous (1-3).
The Storm are averaging nearly 300 fans per home game.
"We played them [the Grizzlies] about three weeks ago and it didn't go our way," Anderson said. "But we've been practising in our own end, how to work against the forecheck they play. I think we'll have a good game against them."