Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Fortress In The Forest Part Two, A Study In Geology: Kings v Grizz

With Game 6 only hours away and the entire series now hanging in the balance with the Kings up 3-2, the Grizzlies know that their backs are literally up against the proverbial wall. After completing the middle three games of the series at The Hap Parker Arena in Powell River, the Grizzlies might take solace from the fact that they managed to win at least one game on the road, the Saturday night 6-1 victory.

That victory would provide the Grizzlies with a good deal of hope left in a series which has witnessed just about everything thus far. The victory, the first of the entire season for the Grizzlies at "The Hap" allows Victoria with an opportunity to finish the series at home.  Game 6 and 7 (if necessary) will not fall under the usual Away-Home model as seen in the traditional BCHL hockey playoff model, not this year.  Instead, due to an interesting and somewhat curious decision, the Grizzlies took a considerable calculated risk by choosing to play 3 straight games at what I like to call "The Fortress In The Forest."  Had the Grizzlies lost all three weekend games at The Hap, the series would already be over. But the Grizzlies held firm and got that one vital win.

And after Friday night's game, a 5-2 loss in spite of 49 shots on Kings goaltender Brett Magnus, the Grizzlies looked like that decision to play games 3, 4 and 5 in Powell River might prove fatal.  With the smaller ice surface and the chip and chase style of the Kings, the hometown advantage looked to be perhaps insurmountable after Game 3.

But I predicted on Saturday that the winner of Game 4 would win the series and the Grizzlies did just that. Tom Gobeil, held pointless so far would provide a spark by cleanly hitting Kings defenseman Ross Hnidy into the boards in the second minute of the opening period. That hit would end Hnidy's night and likely his series but it would provide a lift for the Grizzlies who continued to pour on the fore-check in the smaller rink.

Moments later, taking the lead in a series hockey game for the only time so far through 5 games, Cole Pickup would snap a wrist shot past Magnus. Pickup's unassisted effort would lift his team's bench in spite of a Nick Halagian tying goal before the end of the period. But Period #2 would prove the pivotal moment of the entire weekend. Four unanswered Grizzlies goals, with two on the Powerplay, would be more than enough offense to provide the Grizzlies with the assurance that a Game 6 would take place on Tuesday at The Q Centre. Ayden MacDonald, Brett Gruber, Garret Forster and Jay Mackie would all score and in the 2nd period and Captain Shawn McBride would finish off the scoring with seconds left in the 3rd, sending the Grizzlies back to the hotel with a 6-1 win but more importantly with the series tied at 2-2.

On Sunday however it would be Magnus again leading the way with 26 saves on 27 Grizzlies' shots and a 5-1 Kings victory for Game 5. But the Grizzlies would leave the Fortress In The Fortress for the very last time in the 2014/15 season with a crucial single victory in seven attempts.  If you had told the Grizzlies at the beginning of the season that they would be 1-7 at the Hap Parker on the year, few would complain if that one solitary win would come during the playoffs. The win might be all the Grizzlies will need now. It could prove fatal for the Kings.

But Magnus has been nothing short of incredible and the Grizzlies must find a way to beat him in Game 6 Tuesday night at The Q Centre. Having faced 166 shots in the series and conceding only 13 goals, Magnus now sports a formidable .922 save percentage. It is a figure which is truly impressive, coupled with the fact that he has held talented forwards Dane Gibson and Thomas Gobeil to only a single assist between the two 20 year-olds in 5 straight playoff games thus far.

After scoring only two goals on 49 shots on Friday night, I first started thinking about the film, The Shawshank Redemption.  We all remember that famous prison movie in the early 1990s with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. With Robbins' character, Andy Dufresne free and on the run, Morgan Freeman as narrator gives an account of the prison break.

"In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank Prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub. I used to think it would take six-hundred years to tunnel under the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than twenty. Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure and time."

The Grizzlies proved the theory around that particular science on Saturday night as they made Magnus look human again with no less than 6 goals on only 26 shots. Magnus on that night sported a save percentage of only .770. Pressure and time.

With sustained effort and constant pressure on Saturday, the Grizzlies finally broke through and scored with relative ease on Magnus. On Sunday that pressure lessened somewhat in spite of a 4- minute 2nd period Powerplay, I doubt that will happen again. But remember also that the Grizzlies Powerplay was attempting to operate in the tighter confines of the Hap. Games 6 and 7 will provide the Grizzlies with the much needed extra real-estate to operate their offense.  Pressure and time.

So off to the biggest game of the season, Game 6. The Q Centre will be buzzing and I expect that the Grizzlies will come out with a desperate effort for a full 60 minutes. If they can maintain that pressure and sustain it for a long enough period of time, say a full 60 minutes, they can and will be ultimately successful against the Kings.

That's all it takes really, pressure and time. -CC


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