OK, straight up, this blog has nothing to do with the movie The Shawshank Redemption. You hear me? Nothing!
But here is the strangest thing: I recently learned that if I mention that movie even one time in my writing, my readership goes up five times its normal rate, all thanks to the magic of the internet. Five times! And if I can get 500 English Lit students in Germany to suddenly read about the Victoria Grizzlies, well all I can say is: Zihuatanejo.
OK, now that we have established the fact that I am a complete shill, let's talk about the first game of the 2015/16 Regular Season.
Game 1 is in the books, a 3-2 road loss to The Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday night at The Island Savings Centre (aka The Big Stick). Frankly, even though it was a loss, there were a lot of positive signs for Grizzlies fans to take away from the night.
Oh, and BTW, if I have already lost you with my selfish Shawshank nonsense, you can watch this cool Youtube video by our amazing Video Guy Roy Antonisen (best in the BCHL) which shows the night's action and pretty much tells the whole story:
In the first period the Grizzlies were outshot 11-7 in what I thought was a bit of a scrambling opening frame. At the halfway mark of the first, the Grizzlies surrendered the first goal on the night to the Capitals Matthew Hudie after he broke in on Matt Galajda. What stung on that goal was the assist to Chris Harpur, who the Grizzlies lost in the off season in compensation for the January 10 Thomas Gobeil trade. In spite of the Caps early lead, a late PP goal by Cole Pickup provided a window of insight into what the team may become this year.
Grizzlies newcomer but long time BCHL veteran Brayden Gelsinger really got things going on the goal by moving the puck with authority and finding Pickup alone in the slot which the Langford native quickly dispatched past Storm Phaneuf, the Caps goaltender. The Grizzlies showed that they definitely have the parts necessary to compete on the man advantage with fluid puck movement on the PP. The point men of Brett Stirling and Jake Stevens were impressive anchoring the PP all night. The first period ended all tied up 1-1 and things were looking pretty solid in “Grizzlies Land” while on the road on the opening night in the BCHL.
|Photo Credit - Kevin Rothbauer - Cowichan Valley Citizen|
The second period started even better for the Grizzlies as none other than Cole Pickup put his team ahead with a shot banked off the light blue coloured left pad of Phaneuf, still sporting his equipment from his last QMJHL club the Chicoutimi Sangenuees. That goal was set up by a solid Grizzlies forecheck and a battle behind the Caps net which included Gelsinger again, along with new team Captain, PJ Conlon. It was looking like Pickup might collect his first ever BCHL Hat Trick on the night, but the goals dried up pretty quick after the Grizzlies took the lead as Phaneuf started to show why he played 80 games in the QMJHL over the last four years. With Phaneuf showing his Major Junior form in net, the Grizzlies struggled offensively in spite of a number of quality scoring chances throughout the game.
But the story of the night unfortunately devolved into rough and perhaps even dirty play as a number of scrums broke into fights or near fights. Queue the turning point on the night, late in the second period after a scoring chance in the Caps crease came up empty, far away from the play a melee broke out involving Gelsinger and former Grizzlies player Mitch Meek. Meek was playing in his first game as a Cap since he was picked up in the 2012 Supplemental Draft by this very Capitals organization.
What actually occurred in the bottom of the pile may never be known, but one thing is for certain, Brayden Gelsinger needed assistance to get off the ice in order to have his right eye examined after an alleged gouging at the hands of the former Grizzly, Meek. Meek ended up with a Match Penalty in the incident and a Game Misconduct was handed out to Gelsinger for his role in the altercation. The upshot of it all was that the Grizzlies would be without possibly their best player on the night for the final period when the game was tied at 2-2. Gelsinger, along with the rest of the top line of Pickup and Conlon were +1 at that point in the hockey game when he was forced to take an early shower.
But the hockey game would turn on its head during a Grizzlies Powerplay just three minutes into the 3rd period when rookies Cory Iapalucci and Tyler Welsh would get caught up with each other while both players were trying to carry the puck into the offensive zone. At that moment the Capitals crafty Adam Osczevski would steal the puck and race into the Grizzlies end taking a quick shot from the slot. The shot was saved by Galajda but the rebound bounced clear into the open crease and Kade Kehoe sat over the gift puck with the easiest of finishes he will probably see all season. It was a tough play, but one that will often occur early into any new season for any club with so many rookies. In spite of a spirted attempt in the final minutes to tie the game with the net empty, the Grizzlies would come up short and the game would end 3-2. The Grizzlies would outshoot the Caps 28-25 in the contest in front of a healthy 907 fans at the ISC.
All told the Grizzlies made a proper account of themselves. I was particularly impressed with the team's ability to manage long periods of sustained puck possession in spite of only having a single left handed defenseman in the lineup with new Assistant Captain Cody Van Lierop out with an upper body injury. Van Lierop is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday night vs the Nanaimo Clippers at the Frank Crane Arena.
I also liked the look of the D men in general, the goaltending also looked fantastic and is a major improvement from last year. The forwards I think will be fine once everybody settles into their respective systems. This team is exiting and I see very few problems for the 2015/16 rendition of The Victoria Grizzlies. I am already looking forward to Friday night at “The Frank” and hopefully there will be a large contingent of The Grizzlies Nation making the trip up to the mid island for the 7pm start. Until then, I will let you go.
Now we will see how my Shawshank experiment works. If it does work, the only question I have left is, what happens if in next week's blog I mention Donald Trump? Talk to you Friday night folks. - CC