Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Chapter 1 Complete: Grizzlies Earn A Victory

At long last the BCHL Bauer Showcase is behind the Grizzlies.  Also done with are the two disruptive components of the early Regular Season.  The first was the Victoria Shamrocks Mann Cup Playoff run which kept the Q Centre floor free of ice until late September.  Gone too is the NHL’s Kraft Hockeyville and all of its various trappings which even included Don Cherry and Coach's Corner.  And of course we should be grateful.  Both of these events were a great boon to the Westshore and even to the Grizzlies.  Heck, the Canucks left enough Gatorade in The Q Centre to fill Commonwealth Pool.  But gone most of all is a four game losing streak which wasn't doing anyone any favours.
Grizzlies held a lengthy lead in a hockey game for the first time since March
That losing streak ended vs Prince George with just over a minute left to play in Double Overtime on Sunday afternoon at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre.  And it came by virtue of the player who may be the franchise’s most prolific overtime goal scorer of all time, #11 Kevin Massy.  KMass’s late Double OT goal lifted the Grizzlies to a 2-1 win over the Prince George Spruce Kings and closed the door on the first chapter of the new season, a chapter many would like to forget.
#4 - Jake Stevens, a Go-To D-Man for the Grizz 
But gone too is a statistic which was really starting to concern me.  Until Brayden Gelsinger’s First Period PP marker on Sunday, which put his team up 1-0, the Grizzlies had trailed for 355/360 minutes of hockey since 7 March, 2015.  Trailing for that long in that many games is rarely a recipe for success on any team.   But asking a room full of rookies to chase games night in and night out is frankly trying to go a bridge too far.  The Grizzlies just won’t be the prolific offensive powerhouse they were last year and that’s ok.  But that means that getting that first goal this season will be bigger than ever, at least that’s what it looks like after five games.  
Thus, in less than 24 hours, the Grizzlies will at long last enjoy their Regular Season Home Opener on Thursday night at The Q Centre.  It could not have come any sooner.  With Prince George winning their first game of the season on Saturday afternoon at the Bauer Showcase, the Grizzlies earned the dubious distinction of being the last BCHL team to register a win in 2015/16. 
While the Q Centre distractions and extended road trip are in the Grizzlies’ rear view mirror, not all the team’s issues are necessarily behind them at the moment.  The club has registered only 8 goals scored over the first five games of the season, while surrendering 15 against.  The Powerplay has looked fairly benign for the most part, trucking along at a modest 13.64 % to sit at 13th in the league.  With that said, the Grizzlies do sport the BCHL’s best PK efficiency at 93.75%.  But best of all is the fact that the Grizzlies have only been shorthanded 16 times (lowest in BCHL) in 5 games and that stat suggests a team with discipline and poise.  That could prove crucial if it keeps up.
#11 - Defenceman Kevin Massy continues to be clutch in OT
But the worry for me is the scoring, it’s just not there, not yet anyway.  Yes, the team has been on the road for four weeks straight and yes, the Q Centre has been filled with lacrosse sticks, Kraft Dinner boxes and NHL fans during this period of time.  But the fact remains that the only Grizzlies players who have been able to contribute offensively with more than a single point this year are players who wear “A”s and “C”s on their uniforms.  That bodes well for the veteran leadership in the room, but it’s not sustainable over the long term.  Forget the Third and Fourth Lines, the Grizzlies have yet to demonstrate any Second Line scoring whatsoever.  The good news is that The Grizzlies are full of talented BCHL rookies who have loads of upside and promise.  It is also good news to report that the chances have been there and frankly, I can’t remember when I last witnessed this large a number of posts and crossbars hit by a Grizzlies team.  On Saturday night vs Chilliwack, Cole Pickup, Nick Guiney and Brayden Geslinger combined for 4 posts or crossbars.  The Grizzlies can and will score more goals, they just can’t wait much longer to make that happen. 
That said, help is on the way and the youngsters look ready to play a bigger role.  #15 Kevan Mokhtari (98’), with his breathtaking speed looks to be just millimetres away from scoring a hat trick on any given night and the same can be said of his line mate, #20 Tyler Welsh (97’).  Add to that mix, the impressive 98’ born D-Man in Drayson Pears who broke up no less than two, back to back, 2 on 1 breakaways on Sunday and you can sleep well knowing that help is right around the corner.
#31 Mitchell Benson on his way to a 26 saves on 27 shots performance vs Prince George
Meanwhile after five games, the club has been steeled by the fact that both of the new 18 year old goaltenders, Matt Galajda and Mitchell Benson have been better than good.  They have literally been lights out on certain occasions.  Benson for his part on Sunday made several huge stops in OT which bought his team the time they needed to figure out the Spruce Kings goalie, Liam McCloskey who was impressive in his own right.  The Defencemen have been strong in general and the new face on the roster, American Import #2 Chuck Bennis, has assumed a vital role on the blue line, especially with Brett Stirling out of the lineup for the foreseeable future with what is hopefully not a serious lower body injury.
The best news of all was what I saw from the many scouts at the Showcase.  Each appeared to be suffering from various different levels of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome while watching Grizzlies games. They certainly were busy scribbling and taking notes throughout the Grizzlies action from what I saw.  If you think that might just be anecdotal observations on the writer’s part, I can sure the reader that I heard personally from many of the scouts and BCHL officials at the Bauer Showcase, that “the 2015/16 Grizzlies are a very talented and young team with loads of potential”.  In short they were all impressed.
The Grizzlies salute the sizeable travelling "Grizzlies Nation" on Sunday
So it’s off to the Home Opener tomorrow night at The Q Centre, game time 7pm.  I hope to see you Thursday night.  Until then, I guess I’ll just enjoy this Orange Coloured Gatorade as I type away up here in the Broadcast Booth while I watch the Westshore Wolves play, there's literally cases of this stuff everywhere!  -CC

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