A lot of people come up to me at The Q Centre on game nights and ask me why I call this year's version of the Victoria Grizzlies, The Drama Kings. "Isn't that kind of mean Clay?", the fan will often ask me. "Isn't that kind of disrespectful, I thought you liked them?". I do like them, in fact, if you listen closely, you will understand as I explain the huge difference between the terms "Drama Queen" and "Drama Kings". Trust me, there is a massive difference and Drama Kings is a term of endearment.
Anytime your team wins a game in which you never trailed, especially on the road, you rarely leave the rink saying "Phewf, that was a close one, that one was full of drama." But that very well may have been the thoughts of a number of the Grizzlies players, coaches and Booster Bus fans who were on that long bus ride home to the Q Centre late last night. I suspect that many people on those two Victoria bound buses were likely thinking that very thing while most of us other Grizzlies fans who failed to make the long trip to the Dog Pound were probably only thinking about bed and that extra hour of sleep we were all going to get.
But I was in that group who were feeling very fortunate to be returning from the team's only game over this Halloween Weekend with a big fat road win for the good guys. So why would you feel fortunate for a 5-2 road win, how could that possibly have been full of drama? Well I watched the game and I saw a tied contest late in the 3rd period with a buzzing and dangerous Bulldogs team which, had they scored and they nearly did (if not for some fine Micheal Stiliadis late saves), the Grizzlies may not have been so fortunate.
Yet, the Bulldogs failed to score in those final minutes and instead gave up a number of empty net goals, thus creating the misleading score line at the end of a hockey game which on paper looked vanilla. But this game was hardly devoid of high drama.
A rough affair it was, complete with an uber rare BCHL fight. Yes you heard me right, there was a fight in a BCHL game last night. Storm Wahlrab v Zak Bowles, with the decision to big #27 who started the bout with three hard connections to the head of Bowles before the Bulldog fell on Wahlrab to save his dignity. This was early in the first period in a game which oddly enough didn't feature a whole lot of penalties. In front of 1,089 fans, right on the league average for attendance, the Grizzlies took an early lead on a beautiful Matthew Kennedy goal. It was set up by a clever backhand pass by Dane Gibson after a faceoff win by Jay Mackie deep in the Alberni end. The goal set the tone of the hockey game and forced the Bulldogs into chasing the game all evening.
Alberni Valley would answer early in the 2nd period on a bad giveaway in the identical spot on the ice as the earlier Matt Kennedy goal and a quick wrister by the Bulldog Mitch Makin would make it 1-1. Then things got a little testy. Late in the period, Grizzlies defenseman Cody Van Lierop would somehow become entangled near centre ice with Bulldogs forward and leading scorer Evan Tironese. That would be the night for the stalwart Victoria defenseman as Van Lierop would receive a 5 minute major for slashing plus a Game Misconduct. With Tironese rolling around in pain at centre ice and unable to put any weight on the left leg as he went straight to the dressing room, there likely was something to the call. This was even though few in the building actually witnessed the slash it as it was well away from the play, so much so that the call was made by one of the two linesmen in fact. But the Bulldogs would fail to score on the ensuing five minute Power Play and each team retired at the end of the 2nd period with the score tied at 1-1.
Though the play of the game, for this sports writer occurred half-way through the final frame and few will remember it later in the year but it was largely due to what I often refer to as an "Assist to the Dreaded Discarded Stick". Why the officials never pick up dropped sticks is quite beyond my ability to understand, however that stick helped lead to the eventual Victoria go ahead goal. And Cole Pickup didn't mind as he gloved down a pinching Kevin Massy shot which had caromed off the glass and ended up in front of the Grizzlies hottest scorer as of late. Pickup made no mistake, quickly firing a wrist shot at the net and finding the twine with his 4th goal of the season and sixth point in three games, a goal which made it a 2-1 Grizzlies lead.
It looked like the game would end that way until Victoria finally committed the one mistake they have managed to avoid all year, giving up a Short Handed Goal. After a neutral zone give away, Bulldogs forward Darian Henry stole the puck and took a long, hard slap shot from the right point just as he entered the offensive zone. I know Micheal Stiliadis would have wanted that one back. The puck somehow managed to get through his equipment and then trickled ever so slowly over the goal line. This occurred before the sprawling Grizzlies goalie could dive on the puck and avert the goal light flashing with the famous "Dog Pound Train Horn" informing every living soul all the way to Ucluelet that the Bulldogs had indeed scored. After a short conversation with the Goal Judge, Referee Mike Christians, who was injured in the wrist earlier in the game, wisely awarded the goal. While the puck did appear to just cross the line, he likely allowed the goal to stand if for nothing else to avert a certain riot at the Weyerhaeuser Arena. And after pointing to the centre ice circle, off went the old Hudson Bay Rail train whistle for the third time on a two goal night and even the townsfolk in Bamfield probably knew that the Bulldogs had levelled the score. At that moment most people in the building, not to mention the population of Barclay Sound likely thought we were headed to OT.
But just seconds later, Matt Kennedy would silence that crowd, along with that annoying train whistle with what would eventually be the game winner after deflecting a beautiful backhanded pass from the left half wall by Dane Gibson. By virtue of that pass, Kennedy would score his second personal tally of the evening. It was Victoria's third goal of the night from the exact same location on the ice as the previous two Grizzlies markers.
Thus it would prove the Zamboni End was a tough section of the ice to defend for both goalies on the night, but you can't blame Bulldogs net minder Billy Christopoulos for the final two at the far end of the rink. Both final Victoria goals came via the empty net for both Mitchell Barker and Kevin Massy. Interestingly, new signee, #26 Ayden MacDonald would pick up a helper on Barker's empty netter, his first point in a Grizzlies uniform for the former Richmond Sockeye.
So that is how the game would end, 5-2 for the Grizzlies, now 2-1 vs Alberni Valley this season. It was a night full of big hits, an actual hockey fight (I am still in shock), an ejection, an injured referee along with a banged up Bulldog or two, a strange goal line leaker which went to review and lots of late drama for a team which can even find tension in a 5-2 win. Only the Drama Kings could manage that. Remember that Kings, without exception always rule their land and these 2014-2015 Victoria Grizzlies rule the "Kingdom of Drama."
The Grizzlies host the BCHL league leaders, Penticton Vees at the Q Centre this coming Friday 7 Nov, 2014 at 7:00 pm. And folks, if you suffer from any heart ailments, please consult your doctor before attending, LOL! See you Friday night. -CC