Friday, 28 November 2014

Grizzlies Edged In 2OT By Clippers

     The Victoria Grizzlies headed up to the Frank Crane Arena on a brisk Friday night on the heels of a dissapointing 5-2 loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals earlier in the week. The Grizzlies looking to get some traction after ending their hot streak of three wins in four games. The Grizzlies would be without Quinn Thompson, as he was released by the team earlier this week. The Grizzlies didn't have it easy, taking on the Island Division leaders, the Nanaimo Clippers. This would be the sixth game between these two teams this season with the Grizzlies sporting a record of 2-3-0 against their rivals from up-island. This will be the last meeting between these two teams until February 4th, 2015 when the Grizzlies come back to Nanaimo late in the season before a home and home to close out the regular season.
Photo Credit: Tony Burrows
     Both teams came out strong, but it would be the Grizzlies getting the better of the home team early. It would be Jay Mackie opening the scoring in the first period, as Dane Gibson left a perfectly placed drop pass on the rush right on the tape of Mackie who snapped one glove side on Guillaume Decelles to give the Grizzlies an early 1-0 advantage. The Grizzlies would get some luck near the end of the first period after a big hit by Clippers captain Brendan Taylor on Matt Kennedy. It would be Justin Sadler dumping the puck in on a change, and Nanaimo defenceman Jordan Low would go back behind the net to start the breakout for the Clippers. Unfortunately, Decelles was out of his net a ways and Low didn't notice, as he tried to fire a cross-ice pass, but the puck deflected off the skate of Conlon and then his netminder and into the net for a (somewhat) own-goal. P.J. Conlon would be credited with his 5th goal of the season and a 2-0 Grizzlies lead heading into the locker room.
Photo Credit: Tony Burrows

     The Clippers would cut into the Grizzlies lead in the second, as it would be Jacob Hanlon on a 2-on-1 shorthanded sniping one past Sean Cleary, his second straight game with a shorthanded goal to make it a 2-1 Victoria lead. The Clippers would find the equalizer midway through the second after a Dane Gibson shot found the post, as Jake Jackson's centering pass from the corner went into traffic, and Cole Maier would find the loose puck in front and fire one past Cleary to knot the game at two a piece. The Clippers would press late, but some timely stops from Cleary would keep the game knotted at a 2-2 tie heading into the second intermission.
Photo Credit: Tony Burrows

     The third period would kick off with a bang, as both teams traded high-quality scoring chances in the first few minutes of the period. Both teams turned on the afterburners and the game began to open up offensively. Sean Cleary had to be sharp midway through the frame, as he fended off a deadly Clippers power play unit to keep the game knotted at two. It was nearly 3-2 late when Jay Mackie got open in front with a sprawled Decelles but the Grizzlies couldn't convert, but they did draw a late powerplay opportunity. The Grizzlies tried to convert on the man advantage, but couldn't manage to setup and get any chances. A timely stop by Sean Cleary on Sheldon Rempal point blank would keep the game tied with only two minutes remaining to force sudden death overtime.
Photo Credit: Tony Burrows
     In overtime, both teams had multiple chances to seal the deal. Sheldon Rempal had another point blank opportunity, but a sprawling Cleary was able to make the save and the Victoria defenders were able to clear the rebound. Shawn McBride came the other way with a good chance, but found no dice. Jake Jackson was the next Clipper with the opportunity to put the game away, but he put the shot over the top of the net to end the first overtime period without a winner with both teams having multiple chances to win the game.
     It would be the home team finding the final goal in three-on-three overtime just 49 seconds in, as Sheldon Rempal worked through the middle, took a shot, grabbed his own rebound at the side of the net and somehow put the puck past Sean Cleary from an awkward angle to complete the comeback and give the Clippers their third straight win with a 3-2 victory in extra time.
Photo Credit: Tony Burrows
     The Grizzlies manage to salvage a point in the loss, but the team really wanted this win, especially being up 2-0 after twenty minutes. The Grizzlies fall to 2-3-1 against the Clippers this season. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies don't gain as much ground in the Island Division standings as they could've and have to swallow a difficult loss to the best in the division. The Grizzlies will now get a full week's rest, as their next game isn't a week from today up in Cowichan Valley, as they seek revenge against the Capitals. It was a difficult loss for the Grizzlies, but they'll take the single point and move on. -TB

Victoria Grizzlies Mid-Season Report Card

     It's hard to think we're basically at the midway point of the 2014-15 BCHL season, but with half of the season in the books, it's time to look back at what was the first half of the Victoria Grizzlies season. Head Coach / GM Brad Knight had a lot of work to do when he came into the job, and the team needed a big overhaul after the departure of the Fitzgerald triplets. The Grizzlies currently sit with a record of 11-10-4, good for 26 points and 4th in the Island Division standings. It's been and up and down season so far, but let's give the Grizzlies a report card for their efforts in the first half of the season. And yes, I'm a tough marker.

Photo Credit: Tony Burrows

Offence: B

     Coming into the season, the offence was the biggest question mark undoubtedly. With the gaps to fill with the Fitzgeralds aging out, it left those wondering who would step up and "fill the vacuum" for Victoria. Luckily, the three veteran forwards in Jay Mackie, Dane Gibson and Garrett Forster stepped up to the plate and became true leaders offensively for the Grizzlies. A good supporting cast is always helpful, and the veteran forwards have gotten just that from newcomers such as Matt Kennedy, Brett Gruber and Mitch Barker. The defence has also chipped in with potting goals, especially the Grizzlies top pair of Meirs Moore and Zach Dixon as part of a brand new defensive end. The return of Jake Emilio brought much more offence to the back end, and he's looked sharp since returning from his October injury. The Grizzlies have had patches where the offence ran dry, and they've also had stretches where they've scored at will. On the whole, the team has combined for 84 goals this season, which stands as average amongst the rest of the league. If the Grizzlies want to move up in the standings in the second half of the season, their offence will need to be more consistent.

Photo Credit: Tony Burrows

Defence: C+

     The Grizzlies came into the season with a brand new defensive unit that took a while to get clicking, but the majority of Victoria's struggles comes down to team collapses in their own end and some breakout troubles. While they've improved drastically since the beginning of the season, the Grizzlies have had times where the passes get sloppy and the feet stop moving, allowing for the opposing team take advantage. The Grizzlies have had some nice defensive efforts from forwards like Storm Wahlrab, Brett Gruber and Cole Pickup, but the Grizzlies forwards have lost too many battles down low leading to scoring chances, and most of it comes down to sheer size. If you look at the Grizzlies goals for/against differential, they currently sit at -10 on the season, which isn't ideal if they want to move up in the standings. Again, there's been patches where the Grizzlies defence has been outstanding and stretches where Victoria gets trapped in their own end for long periods of time. For the Grizzlies defence, it comes down to being more consistent as they move forward.

Photo Credit: Tony Burrows

Goaltending: A

     In this case, numbers lie. Although they both sport save percentages under .900 and goals against averages over three, the goaltending duo of Michael Stiliadis and Sean Cleary has been outstanding for the Grizzlies this season. While Stiliadis has been given the majority of the starts playing against playoff contenders, coach Knight isn't afraid to switch it up with Cleary against any opponent in the league. The Grizzlies netminders have made some highlight reel saves night in and night out and kept the Grizzlies in the game numerous times throughout the season. Between a sprawled out Stiliadis stopping a barrage of shots and Cleary diving left and right to make miraculous stops, the Grizzlies have relied on their goaltending heavily thus far. It's a common hockey code that you never blame your goaltender, but there's no sugar coating when it comes to the Grizzlies netminders, they have been the real deal this season.

Photo Credit: Tony Burrows

Overall: B-

     With a massive turnover both on and off the ice, the Victoria Grizzlies have handled their new personnel very well and in doing so have entered the mid-way point of the season with a record over .500. However, looking at the bigger picture, the Grizzlies currently sit in fourth in the Island Division and must move up in the standings if they want to make a serious push in the post season and get home ice advantage. For the Grizzlies, they should be satisfied with their position due to the amount of new faces and rust. The second half of the season brings a lot of opportunity for this Grizzlies team to make a move on the top teams in the league. There's been patches of unmatched glory, 10-goal collapses and everything in between for the Victoria Grizzlies, and the second half of the season should prove to be just as entertaining as the first half. It's been a rollercoaster season for the Victoria Grizzlies, and this rollercoaster isn't slowing down any time soon. -TB

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Home & Home Sweep Complete: Grizzlies 3-2 Over Clippers

Five games vs the same Nanaimo Clippers in less than 2 months may seem to some people as an unbalanced and unfair layout of the BCHL schedule is you were a Grizzlies fan. But from the detached and unbiased view of a hockey broadcaster I view it more as an unbalanced and unfair layout of the BCHL schedule.

Nevertheless the Grizzlies were completely ready to face the BCHL goal scoring leaders and high flying Nanaimo Clippers last night as the Clippers bus sailed into the Q Centre for no less than the third time this young season. And it was the dauntless Grizzlies who stood victorious at Centre Ice saluting the 700+ fans last night to thank those who braved a rainy Colwood evening for their support, each witness to a 3-2 comeback win by the home team.

It was the second game of a quick two game Home and Home Series with the Clippers before the Grizzlies kick off a three game weekend with Powell River on Saturday night and the Trail Smoke Eaters on Sunday. The Grizzlies had already won the first half of the series with a dramatic 5-4 win thanks in large part to a late Power Play goal off the stick of a defenseman, Zach Dixon on Wednesday night. Two days later it would be another dramatic win for Victoria. Once again the victory would come at the hands of a defenseman on a late Power Play, this time 20 year old Jake Emilio. And the veteran D Man would make no mistake wiring a point shot into the back of the Nanaimo net, past a lunging Jakob Severson after a set up pass by teammate Kevin Massy.

The win, in conjunction with Wednesday's remarkable comeback at The Frank Crane Arena would vault the Grizzlies back into the conversation in the island standings. Heading into tonight's matchup in Powell River, the Grizzlies now sit only 3 points behind both Powell River and Alberni Valley, with a game in hand on the former. A Victoria win tonight would place the Grizzlies just a single point behind the two Island Division Clubs and create a virtual log jam of teams all fighting for that 2nd Place position in the division standings.

Dane Gibson, back in the lineup last night was a key piece of the comeback after tying the game on a beautiful wrist shot which beat Severson over the left shoulder and drew both teams level after a painful Nanaimo goal put the boatmen up 1-0 with only 0.3 seconds left in the 1st period. Most teams could crumple and panic after going down 1-0 so late in a period, but no these Grizzlies, they literally thrive on this kind of  a challenge.

The night's #1 Star however was net minder, Michael Stiliadis, who stopped  30 of 32 shots he faced and only allowed two goals against the "103 Goals so far this season" Clippers. The Victoria goalie may not have been solely responsible for the win but without some of his dramatic late sprawling saves, the score would likely have been very different. Brett Gruber scored Victoria's second goal of the night off an incredible display of hands, batting down a Garrett Forster pass mid-air to score his team leading 11th of the campaign.

"The Kings of Drama", but hopefully not too road weary Grizzlies take their potent #1 Power Play on the road at 5pm Saturday to take on Powell River at the Hap Parker Arena and then return that evening on the late ferry to the island as they prepare to return to the Q Centre Sunday to face the Trail Smokeaters who will also be in action on Saturday night in Nanaimo. Game time sunday at The Q Centre is 2:00pm.  - CC

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Subtle Change or Hardly Subtle? The Grizzlies 5-4 Road Win Over Nanaimo

There is only one true constant in life, and that constant is change. I can't remember who said that first, it might have been Albert Einstein, but frankly I am too tired to Google it, so there you go. But its a famous saying nonetheless and most will agree with its accuracy. What is lost on most people however, is how subtle that change is most of the time. Oh we have terrible and often watershed, defining moments like, Pearl Harbour, the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. Events where at one moment we were one thing and seconds later we were something else. But most change comes in small little doses, like the little pills we often are prescribed by doctors take to ward off illness or disease. The change they tend to produce is often very slow and can be hard to notice. In a word, change is usually quite subtle.

I have been thinking that way about this year's Grizzlies for a long time now. I have been thinking about how this band of mostly rookies is very slowly changing and growing into something very special, but more to the point about how slow they are changing their narrative. That changing narrative is at times is almost imperceptible to the naked eye. But today I also thought about it in my own circumstances in that today also just happens to be my birthday. Yes, I know, its a problem we all have once a year I am afraid. Well tonight I got my birthday present, which I may have mentioned the last time we spoke. So thanks there boys, but let's get down to what you read this blog for, not about a sportswriter's birthday plans: let's talk about tonight's game and what I think it all means.

You know here is why I just love the BCHL. Only in this league do you get a team like Victoria to come into a building like the Frank Crane Arena, fresh off a 3 game losing streak and while on the last game of a very tough 4 game road trip, you see the underdog Grizzlies pull off an away win to hand the mighty Clippers a 5-4 loss. That doesn't happen in many other leagues anywhere, but it happens in the BCHL. And why? It is because this game is played by brave young men from the ages of 16-20 and they are each about as hungry for success as a pack of starved dogs are for a bite to eat.

What league can see the Grizzlies with their #1 Power Play go 0 for 6 on Sunday, drop to #5 and only three days later, they score 3 on the PP and move right back up to #1 in Special Teams?  And they do it all during that stretch without power forward and PP specialist Dane Gibson. Instead they do it with heart and they do it with a total team first approach.  I will tell you what league sees that kind of madness, it is the British Columbia Hockey League.

And what kind of team does it take to give up two late goals in the 3rd period against a statistically superior opponent like Nanaimo and set themselves up for, let's be honest, yet another heartbreaking loss in a season with too many so far?  No its not the Grizzlies, its the "Drama King Kids From The Q!"  I just like the way that sounds and kind of jingles off the tongue, Drama King Kids From The Q, lots of great "K" sounds in there. 

The Drama King Kids, just keep turning a page and somehow, just when the naysayers are starting to say that they can't get the job done, they go ahead and score a Power Play goal in the final minutes of the 3rd period. Watch out BCHL fans, the Grizzlies are changing the narrative on the season, one page at a time. Yes, they have given up a lot of leads and lost games late this year, but they keep getting better. They don't lose games and then subsequently fail to learn from the experience. They give up leads from time to time and then learn how to avoid doing that, maybe not the very next time, but eventually.

But its very subtle you see. You really have to read between the tea leaves to see it.  Here let me try and give you an example.

Sunday 26 Oct, the Grizzlies give up a 3-0 lead at home and lose to a "better on paper" West Kelowna Warriors team. They lose 6-5 and the team is incredulous at the prospect of what had just occurred.  Then, a mere eighteen days later, this past Saturday, they hold off the same team with a narrow lead until the 60th minute of the contest when the Warriors score to tie it with 20 seconds left and force an unfair OT where the Grizzlies lose yet again. Subtle improvement?  I can see it, but just barely. Can you?

Now look at how subtly they are closing in on the #1 offense in the league, the powerhouse Nanaimo Clippers. This same Grizzlies team loses no less than 3 straight, one goal contests vs the Clippers over a two month period, coming into tonight's game in Nanaimo. 27 Sep, Grizzlies lose 4-3 at the Crane, then 4-3 again on 11 Oct this time at the Q Centre. Then one week later another 5-4 loss, this one again at the Q Centre. All regulation losses to a dreaded and powerful divisional opponent. Tonight, they go down a goal and everyone is thinking, oh boy, here we go again, we have no Dane Gibson, its curtains.  But change can be subtle sometimes remember.

And the Grizzlies answer back.  They get a break on a routine Chris Harpur point shot for his first of the campaign and its 1-1. Then they go down 2-1 and you are thinking, its the Clippers, put a fork in it, this game is over. But before the period is out, Jay Mackie scores on the PP. The Power Play?  I thought we were 0 for 6 or something in Vernon and dropped out of the league lead?  We did, but change can be very slow and deceiving at times. Game tied 2-2 at the break.

Period #2 starts and before you know it, Zach Dixon scores his first of the night on the PP no less. Then Ayden MacDonald with King Kong on his back scores a sublime marker to record his first goal in the BCHL. Funny, I never saw anybody grab him the puck. Oh well, I wouldn't worry about it #26, there will be many more where that came from. So the Grizzlies are up 4-2 and for me, what occurs next is the most subtle moment in this season long series so far: Nanaimo coach Mike Vandekamp, elects to pull Goaltender, Guillaume Decelles after Ayden MacDonald's 4-2 marker. As he does this, the Joliette Que native throws his stick down the Clipper's tunnel with words and epitaphs that would make a sailor cringe and trust me, I am a sailor and I was cringing. And so in goes his back-up, rookie Jakob Severson. OK, maybe not all change is that subtle.

But the Grizzlies would not be the "Drama King Kids From The Q" if they didn't have a little drama would they? The Clippers claw 2 goals back in the 3rd period and half way through the frame you are thinking, its either going to be another OT loss or we just cave late. Sorry but that's what you're all thinking, I know it. But the Grizzlies are one day at a time, one period at a time, one Special Team's play at a time, slowly evolving into that team you just pray you don't have to face in the playoffs.

First hint of Nanaimo trouble: Nanaimo hits a post late and then Clipper's Forward, Ryan Forbes (who is a Penalty Killer Expert but wait for it) gets a misconduct call by saying a naughty word or two/nine to the referee. Subtly getting under the Clippers' skin are these Grizzlies, they just keep getting a little better. Every game, every period. Oh they are so infuriating these Grizzlies! And those uber loyal visiting fans! Good grief shut it would you!

And then it happens, Nanaimo's Sheldon Rempal, with his team leading 29 points, loses his head and hits Meirs Moore hard from behind. Referee Jeff Eden has no choice but to call a minor for Boarding with just under 3 minutes to left to play. Brett Gruber then does what he and the other Centres have been doing all night, he wins the draw cleanly back to Meirs Moore and with a soft neat pass over to Zach Dixon, the right handed Dixon, playing on the left point no less, fires home his second of the night and 3rd on the season and the Grizzlies are up 5-4. Significant improvement, subtle, yes, but unmistakably there for all to see.

And that's how she would end folks, the Grizzlies finally shake off the Clippers in what I am calling the best overall win of the year so far. Ayden MacDonald and Chris Harpur each score their first goals of the campaign. And now, after removing the large primate which had been residing rather uncomfortably on Big Mac's rear loins, he enters the Grizzlies Rookie Forwards Goal Scoring Race with the likes of teammates Spencer Hunter and Quinn Thompson. 

And here I stand on my birthday, looking into the mirror, one year older than I was last year, brushing my teeth before bed. Just a middle aged man, reflecting on another glorious Grizzlies win at The Frank Crane Arena. But all the while, ever mindful of that little fact which I like to hide in denial just a little bit. That would be the fact that my "Movemeber" mustache this year has one or two more grey hairs in it compared to how it looked the last time my calendar read the 19th day of November. Oh well, I guess its a good thing after all, that most of the change we tend notice in life, is thankfully rather subtle. -CC



Monday, 17 November 2014

The Long Trip Home: A Recap of the Three-Game Interior Road Swing

     We have all experienced that strange feeling after a long trip. That sensation of not enjoying nearly as much the return journey as the outbound leg. There is just something a bit more special about any trip anywhere, whether by plane, train or automobile when its the first day. The car smells fresher, the clothes feel better, even the flight attendants seem nicer on the trip to London rather than the flight home. And no matter how much fun we had on the vacation, business junket, or Junior Hockey Road trip, that final leg home is always the least memorable. It just is. Well I didn't travel with the team this past weekend, so I can't say for certain, but my bet would be that the trip down the Coquihalla tonight for the Grizzlies will be an extremely quiet one as they try to make that last ferry to the island.

     Trust me, that is what a team bus sounds like after it has been outscored 18-7 in three straight road games, while the team collects 48 mins in penalties including 3 Game Misconducts and your leading scorer gets a two game suspension. Those bus rides are not very fun. They rarely feature team pranks with players being forced to sing Ariana Grande songs out loud at the front of the bus, in front of giggling fellow team mates and coaches. You know those fun acts of good natured personal humiliation in support of adding to the growing sense of high team morale, those ones? No, my guess is that the only Ariana Grande tunes on the bus were being played very quietly in a headset.

     It would have been so much better a trip home had the Grizzlies found a way to pull out a win or even a tie in Vernon today, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. 5-1 to the Vipers was how the final score read at the Kal Tire Place today before that aforementioned homeward journey began for the Grizzlies. Even the skate sharpening machine feels heavier than usual as you load it under the bus after a weekend like that.

     So what happened on a weekend of nine periods of hockey whereby the first period in Trail on Friday night ended with the visiting Grizzlies holding the home team to only two shots on net? If you asked me to assess how it was going at that point on Friday evening with the score at 0-0 in Trail and with the Grizzlies up 5-2 in the shot count, I would have told you that I thought the Grizzlies were on their way to having one heck of a great road trip. That's what I would have told you.

     But something funny happened on the way to a great road trip this past weekend and it happened right when everything was going just ducky too. That would be the moment that referee Ward Pateman put Cody Van Lierop in the box for a minor penalty for Holding after only 27 seconds of play in the 2nd period. The ensuing penalty kill for Victoria wasn't good enough but neither were the next twenty minutes of play, easily the worst period of hockey for the organization this campaign. It was a period of collapse for the Grizzlies, ending with a score of 8-2 for Trail and one which featured an Ayden MacDonald 5 minute major penalty and a Game Misconduct for a Blow To the Head.  Not what the coaches drew up in the game plan to be sure.

     The Trail game was effectively over at the end of the second period and while the contest included another inspiring Matt Kennedy shorthanded goal for the Grizzlies, it was little consolation for a team which was facing an opening night of a road trip with an ugly 10-4 loss on the books. The other long term issue though was Storm Wahlrab. He would not play on Saturday night vs West Kelowna or feature on Sunday vs Vernon due to an apparent injury picked up during a on ice hit in the Friday loss. So the plan was to get to bed, call it a night, shrug off the loss and look to West Kelowna on Saturday.

     A push back effort indeed was not only what the doctor ordered but what the Grizzlies delivered early on Saturday night at Royal LePage Place. The Grizzlies opened the scoring, just a minute and a half into the game with a beautiful Dane Gibson stickhandling no-move play in the crease to beat West Kelowna goalie Andy Desautels. The lead was soon extended to 2-0 by Jake Emilio. Fresh off two points in Trail on Friday night, the 20 year old defenseman scored after a long but accurate point shot on the Power Play, a shot which somehow found the back of the net. The Grizzlies were rolling after the first period, up 2-0 on the Warriors. And just like Friday night after one period, all looked well.

     But it would not last. The Grizzlies would once again get into penalty trouble in the second frame. By the end of the period in spite of 21 minutes of Grizzlies penalties and Game Misconducts to both Dane Gibson and Chris Harpur, Sean Cleary would turn away all 15 of West Kelowna's shots and the score would remain intact at 2-0 Grizzlies.

     However, the third period was better than the last time these two teams met on 26 Oct at the Q Centre. That was the day when West Kelowna stormed back to steal a win after being down 3-0 early. The 3rd period in West Kelowna on Saturday night would not see a home goal until almost 14 minutes into the final frame. At that moment Jordan Masters would strike after a scramble in front of Cleary. Masters who was victim to the previous Chris Harpur Checking From Behind penalty, had recovered from an apparent knee injury from the hit to grind out the 3rd period goal and put West Kelowna in a position to tie the hockey game.

     Sadly, with the net empty and only 20 seconds left on the clock, an away win in regulation was denied to Victoria as Jonathan Desbiens managed to beat Cleary with yet another mad scramble goal. So off to OT once again were the Grizzlies. In the first OT, after a hopeful P.J. Conlon rush was stopped, West Kelowna would end the contest when former WHL player and Team Captain Andrew Johnson repeated what he did to Victoria on that fateful 26 October home loss. He scored the game winning goal, this time in OT and for the second time in less than three weeks, he broke the hearts of the Grizzlies. But the performance as a whole was inspiring and Victoria could easily say that they deserved better, especially after the debacle in Trail the night before. In all honesty, even a heartbreaking OT loss, did not seem that bad, the Grizzlies played with heart.

     So off to Vernon on Sunday afternoon and a chance for the Grizzlies to face former players and Victoria natives, Mitch Meek and Brandon Egli, now dressed in the bright bumble bee yellow and blue 3rd Jerseys of the Vipers. Yuck! But remember, by then the Grizzlies were without the services of power forward Dane Gibson who had been handed down a BCHL 2 game suspension for his Blow To The Head penalty from the night before on Warriors forward Kylar Hope.

     Without the services of both Gibson and Wahlrab, the Grizzlies suddenly were facing a quick skating Vipers team without both its leading scorer and one of the team's primary Penalty Kill experts. And it didn't take long to notice the two big missing Victoria forwards. Not only did Vernon score first on a first period Power Play goal by TJ Dumonceaux, but earlier in the period two big hits on Grizzlies players Matt Kennedy and Jay Mackie went largely unchallenged and really set the tone for the rest of the game.

     Then in a scoreless second period, at the 14:40 mark, Colton McCarthy in a Vernon jersey for the very first time since being picked up off the Prince Albert Raiders, showed no signs of rust despite not playing in a competitive hockey game for over a month. McCarthy would make it 2-0 Vipers on a rebound off Michael Stiliadis from a Mitch Meek point shot. The goal would stand up as the only scoring in the period and the game still hung in the balance with the visitors only down 2-0 after two periods.

     But any question of a Grizzlies comeback was soon dashed early in the 3rd period as the Vipers would score just minutes in by way of a Trevor Fidler tally with a totally defensive Stiliadis off his feet in the crease. That would make it 3-0 and effectively finish off the game. But Vernon wanted more and they very soon added another, this time by Luke Shiplo at the 4:10 mark. After all five Grizzlies skaters found themselves at one point on the left side of Stiliadis's left face off dot, each chasing down Liam Finlay and Mitch Meek, Shiplo suddenly found both the puck and loads of room. He moved in from Stiliadis's undefended right side to pull off a toe drag move which launched Jake Emilio's stick into the crease and the ensuing goal put the Vipers up 4-0. Then just seconds after the faceoff, recent acquisition and former Penticton Vee, Finlay, would score as the "3rd man in" on an easy 2 on 1 after a Grizzlies giveaway in the Vipers end. The rout was on again.

     The Grizzlies would at least deny Vipers goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn his second shutout in as many games, with a tap-in back door goal by Brett Gruber. The goal would be Gruber's team leading 10th goal of the year after a nice bit of passing in the offensive end by PJ Conlon, Zach Dixon and Meirs Moore. But it was a case of too little too late and while the goal would make the score 5-1, that would be how it would eventually end. Incidentally, the Grizzlies went 0 for 6 on the PP on the night, which dropped the team out of 1st place in PP percentage and all the way down to 5th in the BCHL on the man advantage.

     So now you know how the weekend went, not good obviously but what trends and what lessons can the Grizzlies learn from this sour Interior swing? Three Game Misconducts in as many games and a two game suspension to anyone, let alone your top point getter is simply unacceptable. But what was more worrisome was that aside from a single Zach Dixon assist on that final Brett Gruber goal on Sunday, all the offence this weekend came from only 7 Grizzlies players. Each of those 7 players enjoyed multiple points over the three game stint, so that might be a positive and it is of course. But just remember that one of those players was Dane Gibson who had two goals and an assist, which is very good but he only played in five periods of hockey due to his Saturday ejection and follow-on suspension.

     So what does all this mean?  Well Homer Simpson once famously remarked: "You know Flanders, you can use statistics to prove any point you want, heck 3 out of 5 Americans know that", but the fact remains that no less than 12 Grizzlies skaters failed figure in any of the weekend's scoring. More to the point, none of those players were able to contribute offensively themselves and that must improve. And that is my point. 7 goals in 3 games averages out to only 2.3 goals/game. And yes, while it is a small sample size and all occurring during an Interior Division road swing, that kind of offense, just won't get the job done.

     So that sounds pretty bad, what's the good news coach? 

     The good news is that the road trip revealed the fact that this Grizzlies team has a short enough memory to quickly let a 10-4 loss go. They did that well and were able to get on with playing hard against a statistically superior opponent the very next night. That is good news and leaves me with lots of hope. The fact is that this team is vastly better than what they demonstrated this past weekend. But the lapses of self discipline must stop immediately. The Grizzlies simply cannot afford to lose points leader, Dane Gibson for any length of time. In only one and a half games this weekend, he figured in 43% of the team's offense. And guess what, he still has one game to sit for his suspension and you'll never guess who we play next?

     Which reminds me, I kind of glossed over a pretty major point. The road trip we just finished, well it isn't really over yet. Don't forget we play the powerhouse Nanaimo Clippers up at the Frank Crane on Wednesday night. And that's a Clippers team who just posted a score of 10-2 today on the strength of no less than 6 PP goals against an "Honourable Mentioned" Chilliwack Chiefs team in this past week's CJHL National Rankings.

     So one more bus ride on this road swing and a crucial Island Division matchup to boot. What the heck, Wednesday is the 19th of November and its also this sports writer's birthday. I do get one wish for my birthday don't I? So maybe after they shake off this weekend (remember they are good at that) they can beat the mighty Clippers Nation and I can enjoy a good singing of Happy Birthday here at home from my kids. And speaking of singing, maybe after the win, the Grizzlies can demand that Dane Gibson serenade the whole bus on the ride home to Victoria with some embarrassing rendition of an Ariana Grande song. I hear its good for team morale. -CC


Friday, 14 November 2014

Grizzlies Dumped by Trail in Defensive Nightmare

     The Grizzlies kicked off their weekend road-trip in Trail, B.C. as they took on the Smoke Eaters on a crisp Friday night. For the Grizzlies, Jake Emilio slotted back into the line-up after missing over a month due to injury. The Grizzlies were coming off six days rest, with their last contest coming at home against the Powell River Kings last Saturday, with the home team leaving the building with a 4-2 win.

     The first period was the best period for the Grizzlies, as both teams engaged in a neutral zone battle that neither team could get the upper hand. There were only seven shots in the first, with the Grizzlies holding the Smokies to just two shots in the first frame.

     The second period would be where the wheels fell off for the visitors. What started out as an even battle quickly turned into a horrific series of events for the Grizzlies. It all started with a Cody Van Lierop holding penalty at the start of the period that sent the Smoke Eaters to a power play, and the Grizzlies spiralled downwards from there. It would be Kienan Scott getting on the board first for Trail, as the Smokies would jump out to a great start to the second period. Only thirty seconds later, Harlan Orr would capitalize on a Victoria turnover (which was a recurring theme in this game) to make it 2-0 Trail just a couple of minutes into the frame. What would transpire after the 2-0 goal was indescribable. When the Grizzlies are on their game, they're making crisp tape-to-tape passes and skating with ease. In this case, the Grizzlies allowed the Smokies to skate circles around them, and the amount of turnovers in the second period alone was too much to count, as the Grizzlies handed the game over to the home team. Over the last 11 minutes of the second period, the Smoke Eaters scored six times, including a last second buzzer beater from Jeremy Lucchini to give Trail a commanding 8-2 lead after two periods of play. The Grizzlies did get on the board in the second, as Brett Gruber and Matt Kennedy did find the back of the net for Victoria, but the amount of defensive lapses erased the Victoria markers and buried the road team into the ground with a period still left to play.

     The Grizzlies weren't able to get back on track for the third period, as Craig Martin would make it 9-2 Trail in the first half of the frame with a beautiful tic-tac-toe play off a Victoria turnover in their own end. Jake Emilio would capitalize on a Victoria powerplay to get his second of the season, very impressive considering it was his first game action since October 11th. The Smokies would reach the double-digit mark at the 14:01 mark, as birthday boy Max Newton would score his 1st BCHL goal on his 17th birthday to expand the Trail lead once again. A late goal by Dane Gibson would pad his stat total, but the Grizzlies ultimately wind up losing this one big time by a final score of 10-4.

     There's no question the Grizzlies' downfall came at the start of the second period. The Grizzlies were unable to recover from a quick two goals from the home team, and the flood gates opened from there. 8 goals allowed in the second period alone were just too much for the Grizzlies to overcome, as the team never found it's traction after the Van Lierop penalty to kick off the second frame. Again, turnovers killed the Grizzlies on Friday night. Although Trail did burn the visitors with their speed at times, the Grizzlies were their own worst enemy as the game dragged on.

     For the Grizzlies, they must recover quick, as they trek on to Kelowna for tomorrow night's date with one of the BCHL's best, newly-acquired Braydon Gelsinger and the West Kelowna Warriors. A 10-4 loss is never easy to learn from and move on, but the Grizzlies are amidst a three-games in three-nights stretch where there's no room for mourning a big loss. There's no doubt that every team, even top teams in the league, go through rough patches and have bad games, and head coach/GM Brad Knight and the rest of the Grizzlies have to chalk this game up as a loss and move on from there. It won't be easy, but the Grizzlies have to regroup and prepare for a tough test tomorrow night. -TB

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Showing Up: A Preview of the Grizzlies Upcoming Interior Road Swing

Woody Allen once famously said that 80% of success is just showing up. Meaning with most things in life, well over half the battle is usually won if you simply show up on time and in the right place. After that, everything else just seems to sort itself out. The Grizzlies could have benefitted from those words of wisdom this past Saturday night before they emerged from the team's Dressing Room almost five minutes late, receiving an ensuing Bench Minor for Delay of Game and going down 1-0 early as a result. Oh well it was Parent’s Weekend after all and my guess is that there may have been one too many “Good luck out there tonight sons” in pre-game speeches but in the end the Grizzlies won 4-2 on the night.  No harm no foul.    

Funny enough though, I found myself thinking again on Tuesday about the famous New York comedian’s musings, at least so far as it pertains to the Grizzlies, when I stood as I do every November 11th, in my Canadian Navy No.1A dress uniform at the Langford Cenotaph. There right beside me, appearing in groups of ones and twos, stood each and every Grizzly player. Each were turned out smartly and on time for that hour long and usually cold ceremony, which we as Canadians have grown accustomed to every November. I had Meirs Moore, Jay Mackie and Chris Harpur near my immediate vicinity. I also noticed that there was nobody taking attendance, no coaches or training staff.  Likely that detail was left up to the Team Captain, Shawn McBride to manage and properly so. So there they all stood, each one cold but ever respectful of the occasion, even the "unnamed rookie player" who showed up in a shirt and tie and nearly froze to death. Ah the folly of youth. And they all asked good questions, especially those who were likely new to this Canadian tradition. Woody Allen would have been pleased. I certainly was impressed. 

And that got me thinking about success, meaning the team’s success over this coming weekend.  The Grizzlies departed the Q Centre Thursday to make their way to Trail for Friday night’s first game against the Smoke Eaters and follow that up with a visit to Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna on Saturday night to face the mighty Warriors. Then, thanks to the crazy schedule they head east again for a Sunday Matinee game vs the Vernon Vipers to round out the weekend's action. Three big games in three nights vs the dreaded Interior Division. Aside from the short trip to Prince George in January, it will mark the Grizzlies last major trip to the interior of the province this regular season.

So I thought, let's spend a quick minute or two here and go over the match-ups one by one:

Trail – Friday 7pm – Cominco Arena

Next to the hapless Surrey Eagles, the Smoke Eaters are coming off the BCHL’s longest current losing streak at five games coming into the contest. But the Smokies played hard at home on Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss vs the tough Merritt Centennials and with a large number of returning players from last year, the team features 8 players already committed to NCAA schools.  Third year forward, Jake Lucchini leads the Smokies in points this year with 23 points and 4 PP goals. He is supported by rookie 20 year old, Charlie Zuccarini and his 11 goals and 21 points along with Bryan Basilico’s 18 points in 18 games. The Smoke Eaters move the puck well and from what I saw of their game on Tuesday night, I expect a tight checking game with net minder Adam Todd and his 3.48 GAA.
Prediction: 4-3 Grizzlies
West Kelowna Warriors - Saturday 7pm - Royal LePage Place
Don't look now, but suddenly and in spite of one of the biggest trades of the season, (the acquisition on 3 Nov of Brayden Gelsinger from the Capitals), the Warriors have lost 2 of their last 3 games.  They will be ready for Victoria Saturday night for sure. But the Grizzlies won't forget the Warriors storming back from that 3-0, first period deficit to outscore the Grizzlies on home ice back on Sunday 26 Oct. That heartbreaking loss left a mark and I suspect  the Grizzlies will want major pay-back.  They will check much tighter the likes of Micheal Buonincontri, Liam Blackburn and Jonathan Desbiens, but even with what I sense will be a somewhat lower score this time, I feel this one will end in a tight Warriors 2OT win.
Prediction: 5-4 Warriors (2OT)
Vernon Vipers - Sunday 2pm - Kal Tire Place
This will be the game I am most interested in seeing this weekend, in part because we get to see Mitch Meek and Brandon Egli face their former team. But also because it is the end of a road trip to the interior and I want to see if we can close games out a little better than we did a month ago when we lost late in OT to Merritt. With a modest Vipers two game winning streak coming into this weekend's action, no matter which Vipers goalie gets the call, the Grizzlies will be in tough. The Grizzlies will be tired after four days on the bus and I worry this will be too much for them and the huge crowds the Vipers usually draw at The Kal. But I am going to go for a Grizzlies win in this one, with the kids digging deep on the road setting up for a fun and relaxing post game bus ride to Tswassen Ferry Terminals and on home to Victoria late Sunday night.
Prediction: 3-2 Grizzlies
So I am going for 5 points out of a possible 6 on the weekend and while that may seem a bit ambitious, especially vs Interior Division foes, I think the team is now primed for a nice big tough road trip. After the positive week they had last week with that win up in Alberni followed by a single but equally impressive OT point vs the powerhouse Vees, the week was complimented by that huge 4 goal comeback vs Powell River on Saturday. This well rested Grizzlies team is pulling on the leech just bit at the moment I feel. While almost all teams have hit the 20 game Quarter Pole on the season, the Grizzlies at 17 games played, won't be there until the end of the Vernon game. So as strange as the BCHL schedule is once again this year, my bet is that the team needs to go on the road now and build on many of the positives from the many team building events they have enjoyed in recent weeks. 
Finally, I read CFAX 1070's Steve Duffy's Blog from a few days ago about failing attendance numbers this year at the Q Centre. I like Steve Duffy, but what he said scared the hell out of me. He is as puzzled as any of us about, (let's face fact folks), the really obvious meager crowds we are seeing this season at home games. I get the fact that the high flying Triplets are now gone, I get the fact that there have been a large number of recent changes in ownership and management, but this team plays with one of the most dramatic styles of hockey I have seen in years. So I am calling on all West Shore fans, heck all Victoria fans to get out from behind your 70" TVs, to get away from your Canucks games and come down to the Q Centre next Friday night to welcome the boys back to our barn as we face the Nanaimo Clippers. After all, Woody Allen's famous words don't just apply to the fine young men in those Grizzlies uniforms, they apply to all of us.  If we want to enjoy that coveted 80% of success, we all need to just show up.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Grizzlies Overcome Early Deficit Against Kings

     The Victoria Grizzlies didn't make it easy on themselves on a Saturday night showdown against an Island Division rival, the Powell River Kings. The Grizzlies failed to step on the ice on time, ending up in a 2 minute minor for delay of game because of the late arrival of the home team. The early penalty would prove to be costly, as a nice move by Jarid Lukosevicius left a wide open Stephen Hiff who finished the pretty passing play to give the Kings an early 1-0 lead. The Kings wouldn't stop there, as just over a minute later it would be chaos in front of the net, and Jacob Pritchard would put one past a completely disoriented Mike Stiliadis to give the Kings a commanding 2-0 lead just a couple of minutes into the hockey game. Grizzlies head coach Brad Knight would settle down his troops and the Victoria squad would control the pace of the play after the Pritchard goal. Midway through the frame, it would be Jay Mackie taking the reception from his linemates and snapping one past red-hot Kings goaltender Brett Magnus to cut the Kings lead in half heading to the dressing room for the first intermission.

     Whatever message Brad Knight had for his players definitely worked, as the Grizzlies completely dominated the second frame. The Grizzlies were outshooting the Kings 31-11 as the period drew to an end. It would be at the midway point of the second that the Grizzlies would finally get their equalizer, as Matt Kennedy made a smart play to swipe the puck off the falling Brett Gruber and found a wide open Dane Gibson at the side of the net who made no mistake. The Grizzlies would take their first lead of the hockey game late in the second period, as Zach Dixon tee'd up a one-timer for Meirs Moore who's point rocket would find it's way through traffic and beat a screened Magnus to give the home team the advantage heading into the third and final frame.

     One goal games have been a recurring theme this season, and it was down to the wire once again on Saturday night as the two teams went back and forth all the way to the final buzzer. There was chances both ways, with both goaltenders needing some help from their goal posts throughout the period. The Grizzlies took three consecutive penalties in the third, but thanks to some stellar defence and a couple of key saves from Stiliadis, Victoria was able to fend off the Kings' offence each time. It would be Matt Kennedy putting the icing on the cake late, as the Kings pulled the goalie late and came up empty, as Kennedy slid his third point of the night into a yawning cage to secure the 4-2 victory on home ice.

     Despite a horrendus start to the game and a rough patch to start the third period, the Grizzlies were able to shut down the Kings' top line and worked the cycle well in the offensive end to sustain constant pressure on the attack. Matt Kennedy was great in the game, posting the dagger late and tacking on two assists in the victory. Although he had a rough start, Mike Stiliadis was able to settle down and stop every shot from the 2-0 goal on en-route to his second win in as many nights. The Grizzlies snap the Kings' four-game win streak and will take three of four points on the weekend homestand. The Grizzlies now get another six days of rest before hitting the road next weekend for a tough three opponents in three nights. In the outcome, it wasn't a one-goal game on the score sheet, but it was still a close game until the end, further solidifying the Grizzlies identity as "the Drama Kings." -TB

Saturday, 8 November 2014

We Are The Brave: Grizzlies vs Penticton Vees - 7 Nov, 2014

     Earlier this past week I had an opportunity to listen to my broadcast partner Tyler Bennett's interview with Alex Rawnsley (Voice of PR Kings) on The Powell River Kings Weekly Radio Show. While listening, I heard Alex pose that question most of us Grizzlies fans have been struggling with all year:  So just who are these Grizzlies, what is their team identity?  Tyler gave a good answer, but in the end he had to admit that even he wasn't sure what to say about the team's full identity. Funny enough though, one word he didn't use in the interview was the word "brave".

     Tonight that word "brave", just kept coming at me all night. Its kind of been a theme of the team all week, but more on that later. That term brave just sort of kept coming up as I watched the Grizzlies take the ice and stare down the Penticton Vees. The Grizzlies stood right up to those talent laden Penticton Vees, just days after the Vees were announced as the CJHL's top team in the country in Monday's newly released national rankings. Then I looked over at the Grizzlies, a team who score a bit less, a team who don't yet have a large number of highly coveted future NHL draft prospects, a team made up of very solid BCHL players, but few who would make you immediately take national level notice.

     Brave indeed you would have to be in order to take on a team like Penticton and actually think that you stood a chance. I thought I noticed it, ever so slightly in some of my pre-game conversations with a few of the Grizzlies players. There were maybe just a few more than usual pre-game nerves I thought I noticed and who could blame them?  Heck they were playing the Penticton Vees, a team which was 16-2 with a +50 goal differential going into action at The Q Centre last night. If it were me, I would be way more than nervous, I'd likely be visiting the washroom more than once or twice if I was asked to face the mighty leaders of the BCHL.

     Maybe it was that song which our video man, Roy Anthonisen chose for his YouTube video of the team this week as they visited the Canadian Navy's elite divers at FDU(P). In the video each player participates in the dreaded and painful morning swim to the music "We Are The Brave".  I am not sure, but for whatever reason, all night as I watched the Grizzlies withstand rush after rush by Penticton, attack after attack, hit after hit, I kept thinking of that melody in Roy's video: We are The Brave, We are the Brave.

     And brave they were, right from the opening faceoff.  The Grizzlies went right at the Vees from the get go. They didn't sit back, instead they attacked the Vees immediately. And the Grizzlies were soon rewarded after a fine bit of play from the Jay Mackie, Dane Gibson and Matt Kennedy line as all three were buzzing around the Vees' net. After a forced turnover, Matt Kennedy scored his 7th of the campaign on a beautiful move off the far corner boards and straight into the slot with a wrister that leaked between the pads of Vees net minder Brendan Barry.  1-0 Grizzlies!

     Only moments later, the newly assembled line of P.J. Conlon, Mitch Barker and Storm Wahlrab struck. It started as big #27 took out two Vees at the point, allowing space for Barker to steal the puck off the stick of a hapless Gabe Bast, and smartly passed it to his nimble Centre, Conlon who's quick wrister found the back of the net. 2-0 Grizzlies! Storm Wahlrab didn't pick up a point on the play, but the space he made by hammering the two Vees players at the blue line delayed any Vees help in front of the Penticton net and gave Conlon all the time in the world to snap home his 4th of the year.

     It was starting to look like Deja Vu all over again, with yet another big Grizzlies lead materializing early in a 1st period. It looked even more like pervious games when the Grizzlies took a late penalty in the period, Ayden MacDonald receiving a charging call and on the ensuing PP, the Vees finally striking. On the play, Vees defenseman Mike Lee sent a 100 foot breakout pass right down the centre of the ice, splitting the four Grizzlies penalty killers and found an all alone Jack Ramsay. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect would not disappoint, as he picked up the pass at the blue line and streaked in all alone, firing a long wrist shot which beat Michael Stiliadis on the blocker side. It was a PP goal, for Ramsey's and his 5th goal of the year as the two teams retired at the end of the first period with the Grizzlies holding a slim but nonetheless impressive 2-1 lead.

     Just a minute into Period #2 the Vees would strike again off a strange deflection from in front of the net. Riley Alferd would somehow deflect a harmless looking Patrick Sexton shot from the point and the score was suddenly 2-2. At that point you were thinking, oh boy, here we go, here come the Vees, but Victoria would not back down. They were brave once again, they stood up and said no, not tonight, not on my watch. That takes guts.

     Brett Gruber would answer at the 1:22 minute mark of the same period just moments after the Vees had equalized. A smart pinch by Shawn McBride kept the puck in the zone and after Brett Gruber was able to get the puck behind the net to Cole Pickup, the Victoria native was able to make a perfect pass across the Vees' crease to find an open Garrett Forster. Forster then tipped the puck back again to McBride who finally found the forgotten Brett Gruber alone on the side of the net and it was too easy for Gruber who quickly dispatched his team leading 8th of the year, 3-2 Grizzlies! You could almost hear the music.  We are The Brave, We are The Brave!

     The scary moment of the evening would happen halfway through that second period as #25, Quinn Thompson, with his head down and defenseless, would take a huge hit as he tried to rush the puck up the right boards and out of the zone. He would quickly rise to his feet and minus a glove, he would head straight to the Change Room and not return in the contest. That took guts, major guts.

     But bravery won't help you if you are down a man all night and a Roughing penalty to Cody Van Lierop late in the 2nd period would create the opportunity for the Vees to draw level. But the tying goal did not come without what this sports writer thought at the times was major, although mostly unnoticed controversy. As it turned out I was wrong on the broadcast and the keep in at the point by Bast was well executed and completely devoid of any help from the bench. At the time however, it sure looked like Bast had some help from many pairs of hands on the bench. After Brett Gruber's clearance from the corner was legally batted down by Bast, the puck would be passed around the Grizzlies end by a number of Vees. Then Bast once again was in a position to be able to sneak into the slot and bury a one time shot past Stiliadis.

     Sounds like a good time for some more bravery and resilience by the Grizzlies. Enter Micheal Stiliadis.

     The Victoria net minder put on an absolute clinic in the 3rd period, turning back shot after shot and leaving a lot of Vees players scratching their heads. It was pay back for the Vees bench "Hand Ball" in the 2nd period. On countless occasions, Stiliadis would stretch out to block shots and flail his body in all directions, each time turning away the Vees attack. As the seconds ticked down you could see, we were going to be heading to OT. The Drama Kings, (my nickname for this year's Grizzlies) would have it no other way. So off to OT we went, secure in the fact that no matter what, the Grizzlies had just secured a vital single point against the #1 ranked junior hockey team in the country, a feat which took a lot of guts.

      We won't talk too much about the OT, other than to say that once again the Grizzlies went head to head with the Vees and actually outshot the visitors in the first OT. But the game would end in the second OT period with 3 on 3 action, after a speeding Matt Serratore, an Air Force prospect, burst down the left wing after being sprung on a long stretch pass by Jack Ramsey. Serratore scored after collecting his own long rebound (a rare event on the night), firing a second time into the small opening in the net and ending the game 4-3 to Penticton.

     And that was how the hockey game would end, half heart breaker, but half major encouragement for the Grizzlies. It was incredibly the Victoria Grizzlies BCHL leading fourteenth single goal differential game of the season.

     Sure, it was an OT loss and those are never fun. But the Grizzlies scored three big goals vs the top team in the country, and took them to OT.  Remember the Vees are a team which two weeks ago beat the Surrey Eagles in 11-0 and 10-0 respective score lines during a recent Home and Home series. Standing up to that type of offence, standing up to that kind of a team takes a lot. But one big thing it undisputedly requires is guts and bravery. And bravery is what this 2014-15 Grizzlies team has loads of and what will in the end take this team to the next level.

     That's what I see as this team's identity: drama and guts.

     The Grizzlies host the Powell River Kings tonight at 7pm at the Q Centre. -CC


Friday, 7 November 2014

PREVIEW: Grizzlies vs. Vees, 11/7/14

    The Victoria Grizzlies play their first home game in nearly two weeks against a tough task, the Penticton Vees. For the Grizzlies, they're trying to claw their way back into contention in the Island Division despite an over .500 record, while the Vees are already in cruise control in the Interior Division with a healthy ten point lead on the rest of the division. For the Grizzlies, there's no tougher test in the league than the powerhouse Vees, which represents an opportunity for the boys in black and yellow to boost their confidence and morale with a chance to take down the top Jr. A team in the country.

     The Victoria Grizzlies (7-6-0-2, 16pts, 4th Island Division)  are coming off a 5-2 win against Alberni Valley on November 1st, coming off 6 days rest. Victoria is still trying to find consistency in their game, as they haven't been able to produce a consistent 60-minute product so far this season. The Grizzlies have 2 games in 2 nights before taking another 6-day break after this weekend.

     Meanwhile, the Penticton Vees (16-2-0-0, 32pts, 1st Interior Division) are coming off a 3-2 loss against the West-Kelowna Warriors earlier in the week. The Vees are also playing two games in two nights. Penticton has 80 goals for, 30 against for a  +50 differential on the season, over 4 goals a game on average while giving up under 2 goals a game on defence on average. The Vees are the top Jr. A team in the country to date.

     The last meeting between these two teams came on October 18th in Penticton, Liam Findlay’s 2nd period marker would be enough for the Vees to squeak out a 2-1 win at home. More advertised, it was a war of words, as Brad Knight guaranteed that the next time they played, the Victoria squad would defeat the powerhouse Vees, Storm Wahlrab also called the Penticton team a small and not very physical. This did not bode well with Vees head coach Fred Harbinson who defended his team with some salt for the Grizzlies head coach.

     The Grizzlies are coming off a six-day layoff, with their last game being on the road in Alberni Valley on November 1st. For the Grizzlies, it will be a matter of getting their jump back in their step to start the hockey game, and there's no tougher test to try and shake off the rust than the Penticton Vees.

     The Grizzlies special teams have been the highlight of the team so far this season, clicking at 30.5% (1st in BCHL), and although their PK is only at 78.5% (9th in BCHL), they’re also tied for 1st in the BCHL with six shorthanded goals.

     Penticton has 80 goals as a team, 133 assists already, great puck moving team that executes with precision and power, lead by Harvard commit Lewis Zerter-Gossage (9G,14A 23PTS) and Michigan Tech commit Demico Hannoun (13G 7A 20PTS). Hannoun is the older brother of Victoria Royals forward Dante Hannoun. The Vees are similar to the Grizzlies in the fact that the Vees get their scoring from all four lines, maybe on a larger scale than Victoria, but still on the same system.

    For Victoria, Cole Pickup is on fire right now; he was held to 4 assists in first 12 games,but recently, Pickup has  4 goals, 2 assists in last three games and has seemed to re-gain confidence in his offensive game.  Jay Mackie is playing his first game since committing to Holy Cross College (NCAA Div. 1 in Worcester, Massachusetts) for the 2015-16 season. Mackie is currently second in Grizzlies scoring with 5 goals, 12 assists in 15 games this season. Mackie has accumulated 45 points in 72 games in his BCHL career so far.

      Be sure to tune in on either or to watch or listen to the game, it's going to be a great one! - TB