Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Grizzlies New Year For 2015

Well its New Years Eve and the Grizzlies have now formally opened the final chapter of their dramatic 2014/15 regular season. I say dramatic because their story thus far has featured no shortage of drama. The early part of the season saw a whirlwind of games, some good and some not so good and then we all stood shocked with the sudden departure of the GM and Head Coach at the end of November.

Chapter Two witnessed the re-emergence of Craig Didmon behind the bench and a restoration of confidence throughout the organization. Fans started coming back and team sponsors felt the confidence of ownership again. In his first 7 games as Head Coach, Didmon had amassed a record of 5 wins, 0 losses, 1 OT loss and a tie, not too shabby.

For this sportswriter and from a purely personal standpoint, the New Year would also see the unveiling of a Bubble Hockey Q Centre at the house as a tribute to the Grizzlies and all that they have done and will continue to do in 2015. After many hours of hand painting and detailing the game would bless Christmas morning with a Grizzlies vs Powell River Kings matchup awaiting anyone who dared.

The non Bubble Hockey version of Chapter Three opened officially on Monday night for the Grizzlies with the visit of the Powell River Kings to the actual Q Centre. The Kings were 1-2 vs the Grizzlies coming into last night's action, so you would have to have been hopeful especially considering the fact that Powell River were on the back end of three straight road games, having lost the first two to Alberni Valley and Cowichan Valley respectively.

But the 8 day break for the Grizzlies sure seemed to have left some rust on the skates. At the end of two periods, the Grizzlies found themselves down 3-0 to the Kings and facing the prospect of their first regulation loss of the season under Coach Didmon. The third period would see more Powell River offense and a score of 5-0 before the Grizzlies would answer with three straight goals of their own. The first two goals were on the PP by Brett Gruber and Dane Gibson and a third one by P.J. Conlon only a minute after the Gibson marker made it suddenly 5-3 with about 6 minutes left to play. You could almost hear the cars coming back into the parking lot for the fans looking to find the early exits on a bitter cold sub zero night in Colwood.

But it was a case of too little too late and with the net empty, the Kings would score and finish off the Grizzlies setting the season series squarely at 2-2. The Grizzlies would have to lick their wounds and resolve to do better just some twenty odd hours later, as the surging Cowichan Valley Caps were to visit the Q Centre the following night.

And things looked promising early in the second period on Toonie Tuesday #2 vs Cowichan one night later. It started with Justin Sadler jumping into the slot and putting away his 2nd marker of the year after a Dane Gibson and Brett Gruber charge on the net which left the puck on the stick of the Ohio native. With Sadler's goal the Grizzlies were suddenly in the lead, only to find themselves on the PK for no less than four straight man disadvantages over the remainder of the 2nd and 3rd periods of play. While the Caps were unsuccessful on those Power Plays, they nevertheless did tie the game late in the 2nd period while on even strength when Kade Kehoe would put a quick snap shot over the left shoulder of Goalie, Sean Cleary who got the start on the evening.

The 3rd period would see a flurry of goals by both teams, but each time the Grizzlies took the lead, whether it was Jake Emilio or later Brett Gruber's goal, the Capitals would answer right back. And so it was on to overtime for the two clubs, just as they did two weeks earlier on the last Tooney Tuesday at The Q Centre.

The OT session would witness the first moment of serious controversy in the hockey game. Only two minutes into the OT, the Grizzlies would appear to have won the game after Matt Kennedy made a nifty move at the top of the point and after moving into the high slot to take a wrist shot, his shot would fly off either the back post or the crossbar. Referee Jarrett Taylor would quickly call no goal and wash out the play but after looking at the video post game, there was a clear and distinctive shadow inside the net when played in slow motion. Regardless, the play was ruled no goal and after the teams traded several close chances the Grizzlies would be called for Too Many Men after the linesman called the Grizzlies during a line change which took just a moment too long for his liking and he was able to count 5 Grizzlies skaters during the change.

Facing a 4-3 man advantage for the Capitals, the Grizzlies would block shots, including one off the left shin pad of Meirs Moore, only to see the stalwart defenseman stay in the play while in obvious pain. But it wasn't enough and too many penalties was what in the end would cost the Grizzlies the game after Sean Harrison would sneak in from the left faceoff circle and fire the OT winner past Cleary, 4-3 would be the final.

So 2015 will see the Grizzlies enter the New Year on a two game home ice losing streak with the Cowichan Valley Capitals returning in just three nights to play the Grizzlies in a second back to back visit to the Q Centre. With that said, the team did earn one of those ever so valuable single points with the OT and it was enough to keep the Grizzlies ever so slowly edging their way up the Island Division standings; the Grizzlies sit alone in 2nd Place at 40 points with games in hand on both Nanaimo and Powell River who sit in 3rd Place chasing the Clippers.

On to January and February with its 12 and 11 games left to play respectively, there are plenty of points out there as the Grizzlies embark on the run up to the playoffs. Tighter defensive zone coverage, a continued commitment to excellent Special Teams play and solid goaltending have been the hallmarks on the season thus far and with the renewed confidence on the bench, I like where this team is trending heading into the final chapter of this dramatic regular season. Happy New Year everybody. -CC

No comments:

Post a Comment