Monday, 26 January 2015

Enough Is Enough: Grizzlies End Losing Streak 6-1 Over Chilliwack

You know I thought I saw something very different with the Grizzlies on Saturday night and it all seemed to start with the play of Michael Stiliadis.  His body language told me a lot and what it said, at least to me anyway was, "OK, enough of this garbage, I am sick and tired of losing, let's go boys!"  He was tracking pucks all night, he was aggressive, once skating to the top of the faceoff circles to beat an odd man rush.  His energy and aggressive enthusiasm was like a boiler on a low steam and the more he played, the better he got and by the end of the game he was literally unstoppable.

It was by far his best performance of the year.

And it was high time as well.  The Grizzlies entered competition on Saturday night fresh off their first and hopefully only shutout against on the season when Salmon Arm came into the Q Centre and skated away with a 4-0 win on "Heros Night" at The Q Centre on Friday.  Forget not that just 48 hours earlier in maybe the low point of the year, the Grizzlies forfeited 3 unanswered goals in the third period up in Port Alberni, losing the game 4-3.  Things looked grim and the shutout to Salmon Arm only put salt in the wound.

After taking the lead early on by virtue of a Chilliwack Powerplay goal, which was scored largely due to Stiliadis having had his stick dislodged from his hands, it looked like the Grizzlies were on their way to another struggling loss.  But there was Stiliadis, rising to the occasion, you could almost feel it in the Q centre, something seemed to snap in the veteran net minder.  It was as though he was saying with conviction those classic words: "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"

And picking up on that energy was recent trade deadline acquisition Thomas Gobeil.  Gobeil, the hottest goal scorer on the team over the last several games was sprung free after a nifty bit of D to D work by Jake Emilio and Chris Harpur.  The steely eyed Emilio after breaking out of the D Zone, spotted the 20 year old French Canadian phenom at the far blue line and sent Gobeil free on a clear cut breakaway.  Gobeil carried the puck hard at speed to his forehand drawing Chiefs net minder David Jacobson to his left and then with ease pulled the puck to his backhand, firing home his 4th goal in a Grizzlies uniform in only 5 games, knotting the game even at 1-1.  The 867 fans in attendance went wild. 

Later in the same period on the Powerplay, Cole Pickup would make a sensational play of his own after batting down a Jay Mackie rebound with a borderline high stick and spinning to his right, his hand eye coordination did not fail him.  Pickup quickly dispatched his 2nd Powerplay goal of the season and 8th goal overall of the campaign.  The Grizzlies suddenly had a lead.

After the First Intermission, the Grizzlies and Chiefs would start the 2nd period with massive puddles all over the ice surface and the wet surface would play a role in the next goal of the hockey game as Brett Gruber would take advantage of a water arrested puck at the feet of the Chiefs right point man, Bennett Morrison.  The speedy Gruber would waste no time.  Seeing Morrison fan on his point shot with the puck stuck at his feet on the wet ice, the Wisconsin native would negotiate several puddles himself as he carefully set up a soft but ever so precise saucer pass to his line mate Dane Gibson.  Gibson would easily score his 21st goal of the season and suddenly the score was 3-1. 

Just moments later, Kevin Massy, playing Right Wing on the First Line for the evening, would make the score 4-1 after stealing the puck in the defensive end. Using Jay Mackie as a decoy, the 6'4'' Victoria "Defenseman-turned-Forward" would fire off a quick snap shot which found only the top right corner of the net beating Jacobson easily over the left shoulder.

Later in the period, Gobeil would fire a laser beam slap shot while on the Power Play, his second of the night and 5th goal in as many games in a Victoria Grizzlies uniform. Gobeil would earn the game's First Star.

But the unsung hero and story of the night was the play of Michael Stiliadis.  Probably few players on the Grizzlies roster have felt worse about the recent dip in form of the Victoria side than Stiliadis.  All night he was called upon to make the routine save, the tough save and by the end of the game even the miraculous save.  Each time Stiliadis was equal to the task and by the final whistle he had turned away 25 of 26 shots on net.  The only shot which beat him, did so while Stiliadis was without his stick.  So all in all it was a "Stick In Hand Shutout" for the Vaughn Ontario native by the end of the night.

In an interesting quirk in the game, the Grizzlies would score their 6th and final goal on the night via the Short Handed variety when Chiefs Head Coach Jason Tatarnic chose to pull his goalie from the net midway through the third period while on the Powerplay.  The tactic would boomerang on the first year Head Coach as Sean McBride would gain possession of the puck and fire home a long range empty net shorthanded marker, vaulting the Grizzlies alone atop the BCHL Standings in Shorthanded Goals at 11.  The Grizzlies registered only 6 Short Handed Goals last year.

And thus would end the weekend for the Grizzlies, who are 1-1 on the current short 4 Game Home Stand.  The Grizzlies are next in action on Wednesday night as they face the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for two in a row at the Q Centre vs the same team, first on the 28th of January and then again on 3 February hosting the Bulldogs with a short break in between for Superbowl Weekend.  The Grizzlies will then go on the road the very next night to The Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo to play the Clippers on Wednesday the 4th of February. -CC      

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Grizzlies At The Final Turn: Four Hard Games On The Road

I always enjoy that moment in golf when you get to that portion of the round where you are at "The Final Turn on The Back Nine".  It is that moment in the round when you are farthest away from the clubhouse, usually at the 14th Green or 15th T-Box on most courses.  I reflect on it even more so when I am at "The Turn" while on the road.  I try and soak in both the moment, the round of golf itself and or the trip/business junket I am just about to complete.  I will often putt out on the 14th hole and look around and say something like: “Boy this sure has been a long but very productive trip and man am I ever glad that I will be flying home tomorrow.”  That moment of solitary gratitude is usually quickly replaced by other thoughts like: “Man do I ever need to work on my short game though, I can’t hit my Sand Wedge to save my life.”
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart ISN
A couple of nights ago I was throwing some used pizza boxes into the recycling bin outside the Prince George Coliseum as the team bus was just moments away from starting its long, snow bound return trip south to Victoria.  As I looked at the bus full of happy Grizzlies players, fresh off a 6-3 dominant performance, I thought to myself, “Wow, you are actually standing on the 14th Green for this season.”  That moment marked the absolute furthest away from home which any team in the BCHL can ever be during the season; that Victoria to Prince George trip is the longest in terms of travel distance and time and thankfully it is why the league only asks us to do it once per year.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart ISN
But as I threw out the last of the pizza boxes and started back to our bus, I thought about the “first 14 holes on this 2014/15 Victoria Grizzlies Season” and wondered what the final few holes would bring. It also got me thinking to what shape the team would be in by the time it got into "the clubhouse".
Fast forward to last night at the Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni.  It was no longer the “Philosophical 14th Green” I suppose, but it was the end of a brutal 4 game road trip for the Grizzlies, a road trip where the general theme throughout was Murphy’s Law: “If something can go wrong, the chances are, it probably will go wrong.”
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart ISN
And funny enough the game started great for Victoria.  Back to back Power Play goals by Dane Gibson and Tom Gobeil had the Grizzlies firmly in the driver’s seat at The Dog Pound just 2 minutes into this “Wacky Wednesday” game as we called it last night.  Best of all, the Grizzlies seemed to be getting the bounces, at least early on. Gobeil’s first goal was certainly proof of that as the Centreman fired a shot over Bulldog’s back-up goalie Nathan Warren, only to have the puck bounce square off his back, then off the crossbar and into the net for a 2-0 Grizzlies lead.  By late in the 2nd period, PK specialist, P.J. Conlon would set up Gobeil for his second goal on the night, a shortie to boot and the Grizzlies were up 3-1 heading into the final frame.
And that’s when Murphy showed up.
With Kevin Massy, fresh out of the box just seconds into the final frame, Mitch Makin would make the Grizzlies pay for poor D Zone coverage and it was suddenly 3-2 only twenty-two seconds into the last period.  There were still 20 minutes of hockey left to play.  And it just got worse from there in what could only be described as the Grizzlies poorest 3rd period of the year.  Michael Stiliadis who had been rock solid all game long, suddenly was leaving juicy rebounds around and nobody appeared ready to clear the puck and the rest was history. 4-3 to the Bulldogs was how it would end in front of a very healthy 931 fans on a midweek game in the BCHL.  But worst of all, the ice surface looked significantly tilted in favour of the Bulldogs in periods #2 and #3 and that hasn’t happened since the Trail game back in mid November.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart ISN
Back up eight days ago as the Grizzlies started their four game road trip at the Island Savings Centre vs Cowichan Valley last week. They would ice the puck in the final minute of the game and give up a tying goal and then lose in OT.  Remember that in that game the Grizzlies were 4-4 going into the final frame. 
Then two nights later, with the shock and pain of that loss shaken off, the Grizzlies rolled into a packed Prospera Centre with 3,007 fans on a Friday night in Chilliwack.  They would score the first goal of the game midway through the second period on a classic Dane Gibson tip-in off a gorgeous Brett Gruber pass.  Once again you would think, the Grizzlies are flying, they will win a road game, we got this.  They went into the 3rd period with a lead once again, this time up 1-0 and Stiliadis was looking at a possible Shutout.
Nope, Murphy’s Law was lurking in the rafters of that beautiful hockey building on the banks of the Fraser River.  The Grizzlies would give up 4 third period goals and end up losing 4-2.  They were outshot 13-5 in that 3rd period.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart ISN
Then the Grizzlies went up to Prince George on Saturday night and boom went the dynamite. They recorded a massive road win by stepping on the proverbial “throats” of the Spruce Kings and at one point in the hockey game scored 5 unanswered goals, two by Brett Gruber who ended the night at 28 goals on the season.  That was quite a performance.  You started to think, maybe those late losses in Chilliwack and Cowichan were simply anomalies.  But they were not.  It happened again last night.
Here is a fact which might surprise you, Victoria when leading going into 3rd periods this season have lost no less than 7 of those hockey games. With 44 games played so far that means no less than 16% of the team's games end in losses after leading going into the final period.  And that statistic does not reflect how many losses occur when tied after two periods, trust me its a big number as well.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart ISN
So what do we make of this?  The Grizzlies really need to bear down on team defence and support the goaltender much better down the stretch.  The goaltending also needs to improve, especially in terms of tracking the puck.  I called for this several weeks ago in my mid-season report card and it improved in December.  But surrendered 3rd period leads in Chilliwack on Friday and again last night in Alberni Valley have re-ignited that dangerous trend.
Is it repairable, can the team overcome this trend?  Of course they can, but time is running out on the regular season and the Grizzlies simply can't afford to keep shipping these free points to the competition, especially Island Division teams.  So the Grizzlies do make the proverbial "Final Turn" and start to head towards the clubhouse with only four holes to play.  My hope and my belief is that the Grizzlies won't reflect too much on their successes this season and what a great ride its been so far, but rather will spend a little bit more time working on the Sand Wedge. -CC

Friday, 16 January 2015

Preview Of Big Northern Road Trip

First of all, before I even talk about last Tuesday or even contemplate discussing the two upcoming games this weekend vs the Chilliwack Cheifs Friday and the Prince George Spruce Kings Saturday, I want to take a moment to pause here and reflect on Kyle Horesman and his family in Sechelt, BC and his extended hockey family in the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

There is no way to properly express my sadness and regret at the news which we all heard Tuesday night about the tragic passing of the Capitals Team Captain's father just the night before we faced the Caps at The Island Savings Centre on that night this week up in Duncan. A moment like that transcends the game and puts into perspective what we do in the BCHL every day.  Kyle lost the man who brought him to the rink every morning, the man who along with his mother, brought him into this world and I want to take a moment to express my sincere condolences to Kyle, his family and anyone in the Cowichan Valley Capitals in this profound period of sadness. My prayers and thoughts are with you all at this time.

While a loss, especially one in OT, is certainly painful, I must admit that I probably felt a lot different leaving the rink Tuesday night than many other Grizzlies fans did in many ways.  First of all, there were far bigger things going on in the Cowichan Valley Capitals organization that night and a hockey game, at least for this sports writer, was just what took place, it wasn't the whole story on the evening.

But look, let's face facts, its was yet another 1 goal game in a year just full of them and this time it was yet another tough heartbreaker of an OT loss.  WE have seen way too much of that this year, no question.  I wrote a blog many months ago about the fact that the Grizzlies are going to be a very different and fun team to watch come February and I still maintain that point. Heck they are a joy to watch now but the team has not yet figured out how to step on the throats of their opponents, when they have them on the ropes.  That will come in time.

The Grizzlies were chasing the Capitals all night at "The Stick" on Tuesday, let's not mince words. Yes, Brett Gruber had a beautiful Hat Trick his first of the season and first for the organization as well and yes the Grizzlies did score a Short Handed marker and looked dangerous at times but for me you could just sort of feel the moment in the rink.  This night was all about The Capitals trying to win a gutsy one for their Captain who of course was back in Sechelt, BC attending to his family.  The 650 Capitals fans who did come to the game went home happy of course but I want to make one quick point about the Capitals here before I go on to set up this weekend's action.

I said several weeks ago that I felt that the Capitals would move up and grab that final playoff spot in the Island Division standings.  People I know, many people all said I was crazy and maybe I am.  But I see trends, I see the game, I see what is happening and let me tell you this: Any team that can find a way to get a lead at home, lose that lead and then tie the game very late and eventually win it in OT, all while one of their top players, let alone, their Team Captain is away bereaving the loss of his dad, any team that can do that, can and will make the playoffs.  I know they are way down on points from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs who have a tone of games in hand on them, but remember, the Bulldogs just lost Evan Tironese to season ending shoulder surgery and that will hurt them badly down the stretch.  Mark my words, The Cowichan Valley Capitals will sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the BCHL's Regular Season and knock out the Bulldogs.

OK, enough about the other teams, let's get back to the Grizzlies.  Its a big road trip this weekend and there are two very big road games vs opponents who just happen to really be struggling at the moment and that's good for you Grizzlies fans reading this and here is why.  These games can serve as the first true look and test of "The 2014/15 Victoria Grizzlies".  We got a bit of a glimpse of them on Sunday vs the Express at The Q Centre, but make no mistake, the 22 players which you see now are now the team which is either going to win The Fred Page Cup this year and suprise everyone except me, or they are going to die trying.  This is your team.

The roster is now set and the contractual clauses which kept Tom Gobeil out of the lineup on Tuesday vs his former club are now complete.  Gobeil, who I liken to a young Mark Messier (more on that in a later blog), is full of pro talent and I expect him to make a major mark on the club this weekend.  I haven't yet seen the lineup cards for tonight yet and I don't want to say too much because I don't have all the info about some potential injuries at the moment, but I will say this: Tom Gobeil, #25 in a White Victoria Grizzlies shirt will have his coming out party on the road this weekend and I can't wait to see it.

But best of all, is what a player like Gobeil can do for the 3rd and 4th lines, along with the defensemen and goalies that I am most looking forward to seeing in Chilliwack and Prince George.  Remember, this is your team now. I suspect that he will make a potent First Line even more dangerous. The impact of that is that it will allow the "Hands Line" to see more space on the ice as the Second Line. Best of all, that will allow the Cycle Line, Line 3, Conlon, Pickup and Barker or even Guiney, even more room to play and score.  The defensive pairings which used to be able to shut down a line or two will now have 2-3 problematic offensive lines to deal with for the very first time this season.

I also think that the stronger offense will help the D-Men who let's face it have been the best 7 Defenseman in the BCHL this year bar none.  That in turn will add confidence to the goal tending pair of Stiliadis and Cleary, one of whom is nursing a lower body injury at the moment.

We actually saw glimpses of that on Sunday when Gobeil was in the lineup, but with Justin Tai in net for Coquitlam, putting up what I can only describe as maybe the best goal tending performance which the Grizzlies have faced all season, Victoria could only must 5 goals.  That won't be the case vs two struggling Mainland Division foes who are either full of injuries or full of poor recent performances or full of both.  I am picking the Grizzlies to come away with all four points this weekend so that they can return to the Island and relax for a change and maybe watch the Seahawks win their second straight NFC Championship en route to their own version of The Fred Page Cup, the Lombardi Trophy.

Talk to you Friday night at 6:45pm (PST) for the Pre-Game Show.  It should be a good one folks. -CC


Monday, 12 January 2015

The Fortress In The Forest

For those who have never had the pleasure of visiting Hap Parker Memorial Arena in Powell River I will do my best to describe it in a few short words. It sits tucked away in an old growth BC rain forest in the upper escarpments of the tiny town of Powell River on BC's Sunshine Coast. "The Hap" as it is known to locals was built in 1974 when the Pulp and Paper Industry was strong an the company owners had the cash on hand to build a two sheet building for local hockey and skating.

If 1974 seems like a long time ago to some, I will remind the few readers who may remember that the year's significant stories included the Patty Hurst kidnapping, Streaking, Watergate and the Vietnam War. Oh and how could I forget?

That summer while "The Hap" was being erected in Powell River, a middle-aged daredevil by the name of Evel Knievel attempted to ride a rocket sled over Idaho's Snake River Canyon. It was at the time the world's largest ever pay per view audience for a performance. I was 6 years old and I cried like a baby that day in August when my dad wouldn't take me to the $20 showing of the jump. It was being shown that day on a massive screen on the rink floor of the OHL's Ottawa 67s rink in the nation's capital. I stood on my driveway all afternoon waiting for my dad to come home so I could find out if Evil had made the jump, a stunt my father told me "would probably kill the poor bastard."

Old enough for ya?

Well after visiting the Hap Parker twice this past weekend and thrice in the last week, the Grizzlies would leave the old girl winless in four attempts on the regular season. But it provided this sports writer with a little name for The Hap which I coined on the bus ride home last night: The Fortress In The Forest. And that is precisely what "The Hap" has become to almost any Island Division team who must visit this somewhat anachronistic image of small town BC Junior Hockey. Did you know that during a recent visit to the Hap Parker this past season, The Cowichan Valley Capitals recorded their first away win in over seven seasons?  Seven seasons x 4 away games = a lot of hockey games. You may not like the building, but you sure have to respect it. The Hap truly is The Fortress In The Forest.

The Hap Parker would be the initial setting for the Grizzlies first major test of 2015, along with the team's next major series of internal changes, but what else is new?

Have you ever heard the saying that all big things in life usually come in threes? Well it was a weekend of threes for the Victoria Grizzlies. In the past three days, the Grizzlies would play three games, earn three points and make three major roster moves. If there was ever a single word to describe the past 72 hours in the Grizzlies Nation it would be the word transformative.

Friday started with the long bus trip from Victoria, to catch the 3:15 pm ferry and on to the Hap Parker where the between period intermission plan was a $50,000 give away to a lucky fan. But by game time, the promised sellout crowd proved as disappointing as the result on the night for Grizzlies fans, a 4-3 OT win tot he Kings. But it was not for a lack of effort as all in attendance would agree that the game was a very fast and competitive affair with high speed hockey being the order of the day. And so, contest #6 was in the books and the team retired to the hotel for the night. But importantly, the Grizzlies secured a single point on the night all by virtue of the OT.  Nevertheless, it was one of those games you just didn't deserve to lose.

The Grizzlies would awake Saturday on what is also known in the BCHL as Trade Deadline Day. They would awake amid a flurry of phone calls and text messages from player agents, parents and even ex-coaches all of which made the already impossibly challenging day even more difficult for all concerned. By the pre-game meal, the coaching staff had briefed the team on the details concerning the player moves which were met with respectful silence. Released and traded were Storm Whalrab and Justin Sadler respectively and joining the club was Thomas Gobeil of the Cowichan Valley Capitals. It was the most significant set of Trade Deadline Day transactions by the hockey club in recent memory. But such is the nature of Junior Hockey, its a business. And any sense of innocence felt by the remaining players was shed that drizzly day, all of which steeled the team towards the prospect of their final regular season visit to The Fortress In The Forest.

Unfortunately in spite of another excellent performance by the Grizzlies including a first ever BCHL goal by Campbell River Storm AP call-up, Tyler Welsh, the Grizzlies would fail to hold off the Kings and would loose the game 6-4. It would mark the fourth and final visit to "The Hap" until the playoffs which look everyday more and more likely to feature a Victoria vs Powell River first round matchup. A coach on the ferry later that night was heard to remark while in the heads, "It will be a long time before this team loses again."  Prophetic words indeed and much easier to say with The Fortress In The Forest in the rear view mirror.

Sunday's game was very different. It would offer a chance to return the favour to the Coquitlam Express who beat the Grizzlies in the final second of Double OT back on 19 Dec, 2014 during the Grizzlies' 3 game pre-Christmas road trip to the Lower Mainland. That heartbreaking loss was a distant memory as the Grizzlies dominated play, but not the score, due to the incredible goaltending performance by Express net minder, Chris Tai. Tai stopped all but 5 of the 43 he would face in the afternoon matinee matchup at the Q Centre on Sunday. The 5-3 Grizzlies win would mark the only home game the Q Centre for Grizzlies in this current span of  nine games from 2-23 Jan, 2015.

It was Thomas Gobeil's first game in a Grizzlies jersey and he looked very dangerous all night in the #1 Centre's role. Gobeil, while held pointless on the night, nevertheless he was involved in no less than an even twelve soild scoring chances. If not for the athletic Tai, Gobeil could have easily recorded the team's first Hat Trick of the 2014/15 season.

In conclusion, the Grizzlies find themselves in a safe but familiar place in the Island Standings looking way up at the Nanaimo Clippers who look to have disappeared with the Regular Season Island Division Title. But they are also looking down at the Alberni Valey Bulldogs and Cowichan Valley Capitals, neither of whom appear at this stage to pose any major threat to the Grizzlies position in the standings.

The question most fans are now asking is where Game 1 of the Playoffs will start for the Victoria Grizzlies. Will it be at the Q Centre or at the The Fortress In The Forest?  Either way, I suspect the series will live up to the drama an intensity of that aforementioned famous stunt attempt which took place in the year in which the iconic "Hap" was first built.

Oh and if any of you kids or players are reading this story and are wondering what ever happened to Evel Knievel on that infamous day at The Snake River Canyon in 1974. I suggest that you stand at the end of your driveway for four hours and wait for your Dad to come home and tell you himself.  That's how we got our news back in the day.

Or I suppose you can always Google it on the ride up to Cowichan Valley on Tuesday night.  I hear that the bus will probably have WiFi. -CC

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The War On The Shore: Kings v Grizzlies Meeting #5

I always loved that Chris Farley SNL Weekend Update routine he did one night way back in the early 90s during the First Gulf War in 1991.  He was playing the role of US General, Norman Shwarzkopf. In typical Farley fashion his wild and impassioned personality took over the comedy as he slammed the Weekend Update desk demanding a boxing match between himself and then Heavy Weight Champion of The World, Evander Holyfield.  "I WANT HOLYFIELD!" he bellowed, "Its the War On The Shore!"

Well the Powell River Kings may not be Evander Holyfield, nor the Victoria Grizzlies be the likeness of a gregarious Farley, but the three straight games at the Hap Parker Arena which the BCHL schedule makers have graced us with early in 2015, certainly are living up a "Shwarzkopf vs Holyfiled" title fight. Any look at last night's action would certainly live up to that billing regardless of the eventual 4-1 outcome in favour of the Kings. But hold that thought for a moment.

Here is a quick trivia question for you: How many times this season have the Victoria Grizzlies been shut out in a hockey game? If you were listening to last night's game at the Hap Parker Arena you will know that the answer is zero. I got it wrong, largely because I didn't trust my initial thought, (sure we believe you, whatever). At any rate, you may never guess how many other BCHL teams can boast that obscure stat this season?  Three in fact, Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Powell River Kings and Coquitlam Express each have also yet to be shut out in a game this season. Everyone else has suffered at least one shutout against. 

The Grizzlies won't take much consolation from that though, especially with the way the game broke down into a full on line brawl at the midway point of Period #3 with the game at 4-0 already in favour of the Kings. It was a particularly tough spot to see the team, after a Grizzlies neutral zone turnover and a Powell River rush,  Jarid Lukosevicius scored the Kings' 4th goal on the night and somehow in the melee, knocked Michael Stiliadis into the net after the goal. With Stiliadis collecting his mask while a Kings goal mouth celebration was breaking out in his crease, tempers finally boiled over and a line brawl ensued. Cole Pickup left the game for facial repairs and a Game Misconduct penalty but he fought well and stood up for his goalie and his team. Nick Guiney was also involved and ended up with the much larger Carmine Buono to dance with, but Guiney stood up well for himself in the after action mess.

It was just that kind of night, a tough one for the visitors, no doubt. The Grizzlies would answer and score the final goal of the hockey game at no less than 19:51 of the 3rd period. It would be credited to Mitch Barker with Meirs Moore picking up the sole assist even though Jay Mackie had rushed the puck straight to the net. I suspect video review will solve that later this week. Funny enough the goal was scored in the very final moments of the game, did two things. First the goal ruined the shutout attempt by Kings net minder Brett Magnus, but secondly it ensured the fact that the Grizzlies remain only the 4th team in the BCHL to not have fallen victim to the dreaded shutout. The Grizzlies were 2-2 vs the Kings heading into last night's action but now trail 3-2 in the season long series.

The big point on the night however is the fact that the Grizzlies will be forced by the schedule makers to return to the Hap Parker Arena next Friday and Saturday nights for not one but two more consecutive games against the Kings. If tempers were this hot after three periods of play, I can only imagine what The War On The Shore Episode #6 will bring. 

Fortunately the weekend wasn't an entire washout as the Grizzlies were successful on Friday night at the Q Centre as they defeated the visiting Cowichan Valley Capitals 6-3, sending the Caps back over the Malahat with a loss. Those points were vital and have kept the Grizzlies locked at 42 points in a virtual two way tie with the Kings after last night's action. The Grizzlies still have two games in hand on the Kings thankfully, but the next two games coming up at the Hap Parker will be crucial to the season standings.

I will close with a funny story and leave you with this though for the week.

After the loss, a Grizzlies defenseman who shall remain anonymous was getting on the team bus last night when obviously everybody was down in the dumps and morale was quite low. He stopped before he found his seat and looked at me while he was in the middle of picking his teeth with a piece of cardboard.

He was calm, cool, collected and best of all he was totally self confident about his present circumstances. He kind of half-smiled at me and "matter o factly" said to me, "We'll get em next week." He then went back to dislodging whatever food particle was annoying his mouth and he shuffled quietly to the back of the bus to find his seat. That's it, end of story, nothing more needed to be said. I just sat there in total astonishment at his calm demeanour and cool confidence in the face of such a proposition. I must admit that I was also somewhat impressed with the young man's personal sense of dental hygiene. Impressive it was.

I think that attitude will serve the team well this week in preparation for the next chapter of The War On The Shore. Talk to you Friday night everybody. -CC