The Nanaimo Buccaneers' season in only eight games old, but already veteran forward Riel Gibson is on pace to blow past his career highs in all offensive categories.
The third-year Nanaimo native scored a hat trick in their 4-1 win over the Saanich Braves on Thursday, and he assisted on the other goal to give him 14 points in eight games this Vancouver Island Junior B Hockey League campaign.
He has found a lot of chemistry on the Bucs' top line and has played a big role in the club's 8-0-0-0 start.
They are hoping to continue to build on that tonight when they host the Campbell River Storm at 7:15 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
"It's been fun so far," said Gibson, 19. "Yeah, I'm getting a lot of points, but the biggest thing is we're winning games."
Gibson is not one who struggled with offence through his first two VIJHL seasons, split between the Parksville Generals and the Buccaneers, but he has never scored at this rate before. In 79 career games heading into the season, he had accumulated a respectable 63 points, picking up a point at a 0.80 per game clip.
Through eight games this season, he has more than doubled that rate, currently scoring 1.8 points a game, putting him on pace for 86 points.
He is currently second in team scoring - Garett Dunlop has 15 - and seventh overall in the VIJHL - Brett Lervold of the Westshore Wolves has 19 in 10 games.
Gibson is realistic: He knows this hot streak likely will not last, but he is doing his best to enjoy it.
"Obviously it's going to be hard to keep the 1.8 per game average up, but as the games go on, a point per game is my goal," said Gibson, noting he has put in a lot of work to become more of a two way forward. "Winning a championship is my main goal." Head coach Brad Knight says expectations at the beginning of the year on Gibson were just to come to camp prepared and to be a leader as a third-year player.
He has done that.
"He's finishing on his opportunities, he's found some good spots on the power play and he's working well down low," said Knight. "We've got a back end that moves the puck really well, so when you're an offensive guy like Riel, it's nice to be able to get the puck on the fly and be on the move. We've surround him with a pretty good hockey club, and I think that helps as well."
One of the keys to his success this year has been the player on his line. Dunlop has the league's best points per game average at 2.1, playing in just seven games so far, while Nick White has been a force and given them room to operate.
"Garrett's a pretty easy guy to play with, he sees the puck very well on the ice," said the five-foot-10, 155-pound Gibson.
"Nick's more of a crash-and-bangtype player, but it's good to have that kind of chemistry on the ice."
However, there is a strong chance this could be Gibson's final stop in hockey. At 19 and playing junior B hockey, he isn't on a lot of team's radars for NCAA scholarships, though he wouldn't turn down the opportunity. He is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts program at Vancouver Island University. His focus is firmly on this season with the Buccaneers, as they work to improve on last year's big inaugural campaign.
So far, that focus has been strong with this group. They have rolled to a perfect opening month of the schedule through September. The Buccaneers open October against the Storm tonight, but know they will have a tougher challenge than the first time they played on Sept. 5, a 4-1 victory at the NIC.
"We don't even talk about (the record), it really has nothing to do with anything, we're not even a quarter of the way through the season," said Knight. "We have a lot of work to do, and we know that. We'd like to limit the chances in our own zone and we need to work on our break downs in our own end."
© Copyright 2013