Monday, 23 February 2015

These Are Not The October Grizzlies: Two More Big Wins

I wrote in a blog back in October 2014 about my theory of what the Victoria Grizzlies would look like in the month of February.  There were signs back in the Fall that this club possessed a lot of raw talent and potential. After leading by a sizable margin early in an October game, the Grizzlies lost a heart-breaker vs the West Kelowna Warriors on a Sunday afternoon.  I wrote at the time, that the game revealed to me a lot about the Grizzlies’ character and self-belief.  I felt that by the time of the playoffs, they would be more self-assured as a hockey club and that they would trust themselves to close out games much better.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
Well, don’t look now, but it’s almost March and the Grizzlies have just won 4 games in a row and are 7-2-0-1 over their last ten games.  Those games included a comeback (4-3 OT win) vs Alberni Valley last Wednesday and then a major triumph over the Powell River Kings.  Remember, they have managed to do all of this without Matt Kennedy, Garret Forster and Thomas Gobeil.  The Grizzlies of February 2015 are a very different team.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
If you were writing this up as a script on how to arrive at the Playoffs in top form, this is how you would do it.  I pointed out last week why I believe this team is the “#1 Most Dangerous Team” heading into the 2014/15 BCHL Playoffs.  The Grizzlies are that prototypical team you just don’t want to meet in the playoffs.  I was speaking to several unnamed opposition team officials over the last few weeks and several pointed out to me how much they hoped that the Grizzlies would end up playing the Clippers in the First Round.  They believe that probably no team in the Island Division is more capable of a First Round upset of the Clippers than the Victoria Grizzlies.  But now we all know that the Grizzlies will not face the Clippers in the First Round.
So where then does that leave the Grizzlies with one week left to go before the playoffs?
First of all let’s look at the bad news.  Matt Kennedy is still out of the lineup after only two weeks post surgery.  The good news is the fact that he will have a third straight week to convalesce prior to the playoffs.  The next bit of bad news is Garrett Forster being out of the lineup with another bothersome upper body injury.  But unlike Kennedy, his return is likely for Game 1 of Round #1.  Next is the issue are the minor injuries at this time of year. The Grizzlies no doubt have a few players who could certainly use a break.  The good news there is that quality AP players are available if needed.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
Now the good news: The Grizzlies just won a game in OT and while that should not be cause for a victory parade down Goldstream Avenue, it is a big psychological plus for the club.  Goaltending which has been good all year is actually becoming excellent down the stretch and Michael Stiliadis in the last several games has been impressive.  What is most remarkable for me is the team's goals against average in the 3rd period over the last 4 games, a grand total of 4 goals, thus averaging out to a 1.00 GOA over the last four 3rd periods.  Stiliadis and the defensive corps have been great at locking down the defensive end as of late. Saturday night vs Powell River was a prime example.
That brings me to the defensive core of the team.  You may have noticed a bit of swagger in the team around a small but equally tight group of defensemen, who have recently given themselves the moniker of “D Corps”.  D Corps and more specifically the play of D Corps has been impressive all year but now this group of players has begun to identify themselves as something of a key piece of the team’s overall identity.  D Corps is confident, loose and less inclusive than a group of Grade 9 girls in the school cafeteria.  In short, these 6-7 players really have each other’s back and it shows.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
Next there is the recent play of the supporting cast.  Coach Didmon recently called upon his 3rd and 4th line players to step up their play in view of the loss of the aforementioned players.  Ayden MacDonald has scored 3 goals in the last four games.  Cole Pickup has scored a pair himself in that span of games.  Add to that is the play of defensemen Zach Dixon who has amassed no less than 2 goals and 3 assists.  There is the support play of D-man Jake Emilio who has himself been on a tear over the last few weeks, with a clutch goal vs Powell River on Saturday and overall stalwart defensive play.  Meanwhile, Captain Shawn McBride has been a “Steady Eddy” type of leader throughout.
Next is the Penalty Kill.  Not only has it been excellent all year, but it was able to withstand a sustained period of 5 on 4 and then a 6 on 4 Kings Powerplay over the final half of the 3rd period during Saturday’s incredible 3-2.  This was accomplished while key PK specialists like P.J. Conlon and Zach Dixon were serving the very penalties in question.  That final portion of the game demonstrated team resilience and depth, not to mention guts.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
Then there is the play of the “Hands Line Modified”.  Dane Gibson at 84 points is flirting with a 90 point season this year.  With 3 games left to play, Gibson has already earned the distinction of being the highest scoring Grizzlies player since Tyler Bozak and his 128 points in the 06-07 Season.  Gibson at +19 along with Brett Gruber at +18, have lead the team in +/- since 1 Dec, 2014.  Linemates Jay Mackie, Matt Kennedy and Garrett Forster have all contributed to playing on this line throughout the year and each have been key.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
Finally there is the ultimate Wild Card and possible “Ace In-The Hole”, Thomas Gobeil.  Not since Steve Sigaty of the Fred Page Cup Champion 2000/2001 Victoria Salsa has there been a more impactful January Trade Deadline acquisition as Gobeil.  With no less than 10 goals in 14 games as a Grizzlie player, Gobeil has amassed this amazing goal scoring record in spite of two games in which he was ejected early.  To put it plainly, Gobeil is a lights out offensive dynamo.  He has a pro shot and hands which has seen him make countless BCHL defensemen look foolish at times.  His play has been remarkable and he could be the difference in a close series.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart - ISN
In conclusion, I really like the look of this February Grizzlies team.  Now I wonder what it might look like at the end of March.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Grizzlies Should Be The Unknown: A Weekend Recap

I am not a gambler, in fact I have never had much interest in such things.  Other than my $20 Playoff Hockey Pool and my Annual NCAA Final Four College Basketball Pool, I would say that I almost never lay a bet on anything for that matter.  When I was in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, I walked up to at a $5 Blackjack Table just for fun with a $20 bill in my wallet and walked away penniless in about the time I can hold my breath at the bottom of a swimming pool.  Get the picture?
I know nothing about gambling or odds or Vegas Bookies other than the fact that those guys sure know what they are doing and rarely lose money.  But one thing I do know is that the one fear for bookies is the concept of the unknown.  In sports, that’s the team who nobody can figure out, the golfer who suddenly gets hot  2 weeks before The Masters or the race car driver who suddenly catches lightning in a bottle at Daytona.
I always loved Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Colour of Money as he described to Tom Cruise's girlfriend in the film the concept of “the unknown” in gambling and the power of it:
As Fast Eddie sat watching Cruise's character cleaning up the balls on the pool table he remarked: “He should be the unknown. I mean that would be nice, that would be beautiful.  You could play around with that, you could control that. You know what I mean?”  In the scene you could see his mind racing at the thought of leveraging for profit the phenom Cruise's ability in 9-Ball.
What a weekend the Grizzlies had last weekend, two big wins and both featuring a bucket full of goals and tons of offense. First to fall were the Alberni Valley Bulldogs who fell 8-4 to the Grizzlies. The first period started with by both clubs exchanging Power Play goals, the Grizzlies Thomas Gobeil scoring his 8th as a Grizzly in only 11 games played for Victoria.  Jay Mackie and Ayden MacDonald would make it 3-1 in favour of the Grizzlies by the end of two periods and the vibe in the Q Centre was "two points on the way".  But the 3rd Period was when the gasoline would really get poured on the fire offensively for the Grizzlies.  Brett Gruber would score a hat trick, his second of the year and Dane Gibson, Cole Pickup (Shorthanded) and Zach Dixon would also all score. The game would end 8-4 Grizzlies. The debacle of the previous weekend seemed a distant memory.
There would be more of the same the very next night with a 6-2 victory over the Prince George Spruce Kings and it would be thanks to many of the weekend's usual suspects in the scoring.  In the 1st Period, Cole Pickup would bat a puck out of mid air in the crease to open the scoring and the Ayden MacDonald would score 11 seconds into the 2nd Period, all of which would setup the Grizzlies for a routine victory on the night. Dane Gibson who would eventually be named BCHL Player of The Week would score two goals in the second half of the contest as would Brett Gruber and Zach Dixon, each picking up a goal themselves.
The Victoria Grizzlies are two weeks away from the playoffs and without question they are the BCHL’s absolute #1 “Unknown Team”.  They are without debate the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs.  If Eddie Felson was the “Stakehorse” of the Grizzlies right now, he would be very exited about the prospect of what he might be able to do concerning controlling the unknown.
Here is my Top 10 List as to why the Grizzlies are the most dangerous team in the league heading into the playoffs. 
1)      The Grizzlies Powerplay performance is tops at 26.85% efficiency, a full 2 percentage points against their nearest competitor, Alberni Valley.
2)      The team has scored no less than 58 Powerplay goals on the season and now sits at #2 in the league in that category.  Alberni Valley has scored 60, but with 25 more opportunities.  
3)      The Grizzlies have no less than five players at 20 goals and potentially could finish the year with ten players at 10+ goals scored before the playoffs commence.  On any given night any of the 20 skaters can score.
4)      The Grizzlies have scored 198 goals on the season and with 5 games to go, that number could easily eclipse the figures of previous seasons including those of the entire “Fitzgerald Era”.  
5)      The Grizzlies possess the scariest set of offensively gifted D-Men in the BCHL with no less than 34 goals scored by the defensemen so far.  No other team is close.  Even the BCHL goal scoring champion Nanaimo Clippers have only scored 29 goals by their D-Men. 
6)      The Penalty Killers are the league’s best as far as I am concerned.  Not only can these PK specialists shut down the opposition during the man advantage, but they can score as well.  The Grizzlies are tied with Coquitlam in Short-handed goals at 12. 
7)      The supporting cast features a large number of players all of whom can and do contribute to the offense on a nightly basis.  In short this team can flat out put the puck in the net and on some nights, they look like they can score for fun, all four lines.
8)      The Grizzlies lead the BCHL with no less than 361 assists, while the Nanaimo Clippers who have scored 24 more goals on the season have registered only 357 assists.  What does that mean?  It means that the Grizzlies can pass the puck better than any other team in the league.
9)      Opposition Shots on Goal (SOG) have fallen all year.  The team which was being outshot 46% of the time under the old coaching regime is now being outshot only 25% of the time, a drop of 20 full percentage points in less than three months.
10)   The Grizzlies goalies do not lead the league in very many categories, but the team goals against average has been slowly dropping all year in spite of several lop-sided shocker losses games from earlier in the season.  In short they are far better now than they were in October. Far better.
The analytics look good, yes, but best of all is the radar scope.  The Grizzlies, through no fault of their own have managed to very quietly amass this incredible record.  And nobody is watching.  Walk around your average BCHL rink on  Friday night, I do.  You know what I hear?  "Penticton, its over, the Vees, they have it.  Nanaimo will finish second, they're too good." 
The Grizzlies have done all this largely by virtue of the fact that they have lost a good number of close games and also suffered 10 Overtime losses this season.  The good news on that is that 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 OTs do not exist in the Playoffs.  In any playoff games in which the Grizzlies find themselves tied after 60 minutes, both teams will play OT with 5 skaters.  That will help the Grizzlies who have frankly not been great all year in 4-4 OT. 
But back to that original point, the Grizzlies might just be getting hot at right about the perfect time of the year.  If they keep this up, they will be like a heavily armed supersonic attack aircraft travelling at tree top level, well under enemy radars, all ready to pounce on any unsuspecting target along the way.  Most BCHL pundits can’t see that.  But I can and I don't even play pool.
All I know is that if Fast Eddie was here, I think he would know exactly what to do in this situation.  I mean that would be nice, that would be beautiful.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Ok Houston, We've Had A Problem Here

Hollywood Director Ron Howard actually made a movie which quoted those famous words from the April, 1970 moon mission of Apollo 13, his famous film by the same name.  The actual words were not spoken by Tom Hanks’ character, Mission Commander (CDR) Jim Lovell, but by Second in Command, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Jack Swagert.  When Swagert first reported trouble on that fateful evening in 1970 he did not yet know that in fact Oxygen Tank 2 (O2 #2) had exploded inside his spacecraft.  But for both he and his other fellow crewmen, Fred Haise and Commander Jim Lovell, they faced as a team a massive series of audible and visual alarms throughout the spacecraft.

Realizing instantly that something was seriously wrong with his ship, Swigert chose to use a rare and almost never used word in flying, the word “problem”.  And thus were born those famous words, which now appear in our day to day parlance when things go badly astray.  To this day, you will hear people sometimes say in the midst of catastrophe:  “OK Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

As I watched Matt Kennedy make his way down the Players’ Tunnel on Friday night, I didn’t say those famous words on the air at the time, but I sure thought them in my head.  I am no clairvoyant by any means, but I knew instantly that the Victoria Grizzlies had just blown Oxygen Tank #2.

The Grizzlies problems however go well beyond simply a season ending shoulder injury to Powerplay Specialist and #2 Man on The Hands Line, Matt Kennedy.  Thomas Gobeil, the Grizzlies “Mark Messier” as I like to call him, is also out for some time and there are several others who are hurting.  Many are suffering from the February bumps and bruises which makes day to day play a struggle at times.  Beyond that, there is the issue of goaltending and overall team defense, an issue which has seen the Grizzlies outscored 13-3 in the span of the past two games.  To put it plainly, the Grizzlies readout display is blaring out what can only be described as a large number of “Cautions and Warnings”.

But lets’ go back to that fateful night in Houston in 1970 and the man who would change the course of events for that doomed spacecraft.  His name was Gene Kranz.  Kranz was a chain smoking steely eyed missile man and the Lead Flight Controller in Houston that night.  There he stood alone with a room full of controllers, engineers and computer experts all looking at him for guidance.  As he stood there amid a plethora of malfunctions, problems, alarms, not to mention an oxygen leaking spacecraft which was hurtling towards the moon partially out of control, he calmed everyone down instantly as he lit up another cigarette and said something which got everyone’s attention.  In short Kranz, who was Korean War veteran, simply would not panic in the moment of crisis.

In that moment he looked at his group of highly concerned, but equally competent controllers and then specifically to his Environmental Electrical and Control Officer (EECOM), an engineer by the name of Sy Leibergot to ask a simple question:

Kranz asked Leibergot, “Sy, let’s try and look at this thing from a standpoint of status; what have we got on the spacecraft that’s good?”

That question set off a sequence of events which culminated with the discovery of a series of answers and solutions which eventually lead to Apollo 13 returning safely to the Earth just 3 days later.  That return journey to Earth was filled with ad hoc repairs, large scale technical improvisations amid the highest drama in the history of spaceflight.  To this day, the work of Gene Kranz and his team of engineers and flight controllers in Houston in April of 1970 is considered by many historians as NASA’s finest hour.

I can only imagine what must be going on inside the office of General Manager and Head Coach Craig Didmon at the moment.  I suspect that both he and his very own “Cy Leibergot”, Assistant Head Coach, Scott Hawthorne are very busy at the moment trying to figure out what exactly they have "on the spacecraft" that's good.  You know, from a standpoint of status?
The fact remains that the Grizzlies still have seven regular season games left before they can begin their 2015 playoff run and there are still a great many problems.  There is no question that they will have to improvise and come up with their own series of ad hoc repairs. They know that this is what is required in order to get their season completed and get the Grizzlies heading into the playoffs as a team to be feared rather than a team to be beaten.  So I thought I would play a little bit of Sy Leibergot myself and offer you Grizzlies fans what I see in terms of what we have "left on the spacecraft" that's good.

The Powerplay is certainly damaged but it isn’t broken beyond repair.  Brett Gruber, Dane Gibson, Garret Forster and Jay Mackie can still move the puck around more than well enough.  Once Gobeil is back, he along with Jake Emilio will both be able to blast their trademark one timer slap shots just like before. Will it be as good a Powerplay without the vision and hands of Kennedy?  Likely no, but the Grizzlies will have to make do and forwards like Cole Pickup, Shawn McBride and Kevin Massy will have to play a bigger role.

That move should allow the astronauts to close the Reac Valves to Fuel Cells #1 and #3 and shut down the electrical control systems in the Command Module (CM) and stop the oxygen leak.
Next comes the problem of the The Hands Line, missing such a key piece as Kennedy. The line will see another player, likely Forster, an original member of the Hands Line anyway, to re-join the group and play the role of shooter while Gibson and Gruber will have to handle the puck a little more than before.
This decision will give the astronauts time to power up the Lunar Module (LEM) and use it as a “lifeboat” for the free-return trajectory and sling shot it around the dark side of the moon for a return to Earth.

Next is the issue of problems in goal.  The Grizzlies need a new approach; they need a goal-tending coaching emphasis on puck/play tracking and aggressive D-Zone team defense.  It must be one which will put all 5 skaters on notice in terms of the back-check and establish break-out responsibilities clear to all 4 lines.  They will have 4 days of practice including today to figure it out before they face the hot Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday night.
This step will allow the astronauts to fire the Decent Engine on the LEM at “Pericynthion + 2” (closest approach to the moon +2 hrs) for exactly 1 minute and 24 seconds, speeding up the return journey to the earth by about ten hours and allowing for a Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean rather than the Indian Ocean which will help the recovery forces.

Is everybody following me so far?  OK listen up, there's more.
Next is the issue of the Penalty Kill and missing players in the lineup.  PK specialists PJ Conlon, Mitch Barker, Cody Van Lierop and Zach Dixon who have been great all year, will have to do be even better in the next month.  Next, the team will likely need to call up the services of AP players like Tyler Welsh of the Campbell River Storm or Mark Krabben of the Okanagan Rockets Major Midget team to shore up the club for as long as necessary. And they will need to play lights out.
This procedure will provide the crew with the ability to rig an improvised system to adapt the Command Module's square carbon dioxide scrubber cartridges to fit the Lunar Module’s, which take a round cartridge to solve the issue of rising carbon dioxide levels in the spacecraft and allow them to breath safe levels of the poisonous gas from their expelled breath for their 3 day return journey to Earth.

Next the club will need to get more out of the 3rd and 4th lines.  The 4th Line which has been solid all year will now have to not only check well, but will now be called upon to score the odd goal in view of the lost offense from the absences or Gobeil and Kennedy.  Ayden MacDonald, Spencer Hunter and Nick Guiney will each have to look inside themselves and find a level of their game which they haven’t been asked to deliver yet this season.

This set of start-up procedures written by NASA engineers in Houston will ensure that the Command Module (CM) can be safely powered up by using only a miniscule amount of amperage left in the batteries. Once the CM is powered up after three days in sub-freezing temperatures, the astronauts will be able to leave the LEM return to the CM and use it for re-entry.
Lastly, the Grizzlies will have to look at one and other.  Along with the rest of the team, Chris Harpur, Meirs Moore, Sean Cleary, Tomba Huddelstan and Michael Stiliadis will each need to find a way, any way to make themselves just that little bit better before the end of the year.
This final course correction will allow the Command Module to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere at the precise angle required in order to safely make a successful Splashdown.

That’s how the Grizzlies can save their season. "Houston, this is ODYSSEY, its good to see you again."
Just like that famous moment in April 1970, it will take the entire team, the players, the coaches and the back-room staff to save the ship.  They will each have to accept the fact that major injuries and less than ideal play are all part of any hockey season and that the answers can only be found in the Dressing Room, from within.  And with that attitude and commitment, just like Apollo 13, saving their season from catastrophe may in the final analysis end up being the Grizzlies finest hour. -CC

Friday, 6 February 2015

What Goes Around Comes Around: Grizzlies v Clippers

Its been a little while since my last post and a few games have been played so I better just get right to it.
Remember that old saying: “What goes around comes around?”  Well a funny thing happened on the way to the Playoffs last night at The Frank Crane Arena, but more on that in a moment, we need to catch up on what has been going on over the last week in the Grizzly Nation.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)

Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)
After losing two straight games, including a season first ever 4-0 Shutout at home to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks two weeks ago, the month of January looked like it would come in like a lion but go out like a lamb.  Or so goes the saying as far as Grizzlies fans were concerned.  But the Grizzlies would surprise many with a series of major bounce back games with lopsided wins against the Chilliwack Chiefs (6-1), and two vs the Alberni Valley Bulldogs by scores of 8-3 and 4-0 respectively.  During that recent 4 game stretch, Michael Stiliadis recorded his second shutout of the season in the 4-0 win over the Bulldogs on Tuesday, but the bigger story for me was the offence.  In short, the Grizzlies offence has exploded in the last two weeks.  Last night was a 5-4 OT loss in Nanaimo, but 4 goals in Nanaimo vs the #1 Goalie in the BCHL, Guillaume Decelles, is still very good indeed.

Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)
So what is happening, just how and why have the Grizzlies acquired such offensive prowess all of a sudden?  The answer is that the offence was always there.  Its just that now with the likes of Tom Gobeil, Kevin Massy and Jay Mackie there has been a transformation a fantastic Top Line into an unstoppable Top Line.  The first line just plain scores every single night, full stop.  Couple that with Line #2, The Hands Line, Gruber, Kennedy and Dane Gibson and the Victoria Grizzlies suddenly have what might very well be the best top 6 forwards in the BCHL.  Don’t forget that they are achieving this in the absence of Garrett Forster, who is still out nursing an upper body injury.  When Forster gets back, which should be soon, that top line will get even better. 
Bottom line, the Grizzlies have outscored their opponents 22-9 in their last four games going 3-0-0-1.  Dane Gibson is now 3rd in BCHL scoring and Tom Gobeil has registered 10 points in 8 games, 7 of them goals. And who can forget Brett Gruber and his team leading 30 goals?  Gruber has been flat out fantastic in January/early February.  Jay Mackie and Matt Kennedy have also been offensively explosive, with the former on a four game point streak and the later with a pair last night in the OT loss at the Frank Crane Arena.  The defense has been solid and the goal tending has also improved.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)
Back to last night.  A franchise record ten overtime losses is not a good stat to quote, but I really liked what I saw last night and here is why.  Going into action yesterday, Nanaimo had won 4 of 6 games vs Victoria this season.  Each game was won by a single goal and while last night was no exception, the Grizzlies came back and tied the game on no less than three separate occasions.  And you could see the frustration in the Clippers.  By the second period, tempers finally boiled over. 
After a fight where Meirs Moore was jumped by Ryan Forbes at the Clippers bench, the seemingly nitro-glycerine fuelled Nanaimo Head Coach, Mike Vanderkamp, sporting a foot cast for some reason, finally started to crack.  Once Game Misconduct and Instigator penalties were handed out to Ryan Forbes, but not to Moore, who was clearly ambushed on the play, Vanderkamp looked on with incredulity.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)
Amazingly Vanderkamp seemed pleased that with his team up 3-2, he would see Ryan Forbes instigate a fight.  Even more miraculous, nobody in the building seemed to notice or care that Referee Zack Sletto appeared to completely re-write the BCHL rule book all on his own as he dolled out the penalties.  Incredibly and for the very first time in this hockey writers career, I along with the other 932 fans on hand witnessed a "3 Minute Penalty".  Incredible, I thought that only happened in my "Beer League" because beer leagues typically run the clock, but there it was for all to see, a 3-minute penalty, awarded to the Grizzlies.
Rather than get in a massive explanation, suffice to say, Sletto completely mis-understood and mis-applied the very black and white BCHL Refereeing Supplement which was well briefed to all BCHL officials prior to the start of the season.  That Supplement if it had been understood by last night's officiating crew would have seen a 4 on 4 situation for 4 minutes, followed by three minutes of PP time for the Grizzlies after the two Moore minors were completed.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)
Regardless, that butchered call really got the Nanaimo Coach going.  Strike #1 on Vanderkamp.  Then only 5 minutes later after Tom Gobeil and Cole Maier were both given 10 minute misconducts, with an extra 2 minutes to Maier for a Cross-Check, Vanderkamp got even hotter and the benches started passing pleasantries.  Strike #2 on Vanderkamp.  But only minutes later when the returning Moore fired a bullet shot tipped by Matt Kennedy tying the game at 3-3, the Nanaimo Head Coaching bundle of nitro-glycerin was finally forced beyond molecular stability and off went Vanderkamp for Strike #3.
Challenging Victoria Assistant Coach Scott Hawthorne to a fight at the bench, Vanderkamp was immediately ejected from the game.  But not before sharing with all in attendance a series of insults, profanity and expletives not heard during even the longest of sea going voyages by the hardest alcohol-fueled navy men know to travel the high seas.  Gone was Vanderkamp but not before appearing in the Grizzlies side of the tunnel, only to be restrained by arena security as he attempted to entice the far calmer Hawthorne to a fight.
Hawthorne would have none of it, likely for both the simple fact that he was far too wise to fall for such lunacy, but probably also for the fact that few have so assailed in single handed combat any credibility from fighting an incensed coach with a broken foot.
After a Dane Gibson PP goal, the Grizzlies would eventually take the lead in the 3rd period, a rare sight for Nanaimo at home this season, but the lead would not last and OT which you could sense was in the cards all night, became a reality.  Sadly the game would end on a poor line change with a partially screened point shot by ex-WHL and Clippers newcomer, Ryan Coghlan and the Grizzlies would collect their league leading 10th OT loss of the season. 5-4 was the final, but the Grizzlies outshot the Clippers 40-36 on the night.
Photo Credit - Christian Stewart (ISN)
In the meantime, what I liked once again were the multiple comebacks and the overall team response.  Best of all I liked the fact that the Grizzlies are a team which shouldn't be on the mental radar of the high flying Nanaimo Clippers, but they certainly are now.  And as evidenced by the multiple game ejections by the Clippers and lack of self-control, the Grizzlies are not just on their proverbial radar scope, but they are now firmly in their hockey minds and thoughts.  This Victoria team is an ever growing mass of blinking red video return in the psyche of The Clippers who suddenly recognize this new and very serious threat located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, a threat which the Grizzlies now clearly represent.  I would conclude only by saying that the secret is out.  Let's just hope that for Grizzlies fans, that "what goes around comes around" come Playoff time in March. -CC