Monday, 7 December 2015

A Sherpa's Guide To Plan B Travel: Grizzlies v Kings

After a well earned single point on Tuesday night vs the Nanaimo Clippers, the Grizzlies braced themselves for visit #2 to The Sunshine Coast.  The area's local rink, The Hap Parker Arena, known to some readers of this blog as "The Fortress in The Forrest", is a building which witnessed but a single Grizzly victory in all of last season.

When it was discovered that Tropical Storm Poindexter was barrelling its way headlong into Vancouver Island early Saturday morning, the Grizzlies had to abandon their standard plan to take the Comox Ferry to Powell River and instead reverted to the dreaded Plan B route.  But the ad hoc trek would prove so long, arduous and fraught with bad weather, (not to mention the passing by of several road side accidents) that Sherpa guides will likely be assigned to the team bus should another Plan B be called upon in future visits to The Hap.

Grizzlies players Pickup, Mokhtari, Visconti and Krabben carefully negotiating their way to Powell River early Saturday
With the single ferry and normally five hour trip to Powell River suddenly turned into a three ferry, 13 hour Bataan Death March, the Grizzlies would arrive to face their Island Division rivals eager and ready to play at 7:15pm.  After a spirited first ten minutes which saw the Grizzlies give the Kings everything they had, the dreaded bus legs would soon appear and the Kings took the lead on a Liam Lawson goal near the end of the first frame.
Artist's rendition of Grizzlies arriving at Hap Parker just in time to play Kings on Saturday night 
Periods 2 and 3 would seem no better except for a single Kevin Massy marker as the big D Man who spent the game playing a bit of forward, would find the net and spoil Kings goalie Jeff Smith's shutout bid.  Several near scraps almost occurred during the contest between Kings' forward Nick Halagian and The Undertaker, Chuck Bennis, but incredibly no actual altercations took place.  The game would end 5-1 and the Grizzlies would vow to play another day.

And that moment would come at 2pm on Sunday afternoon, but not after a fully fuelled and replenished Grizzlies squad had an opportunity to sleep and eat a few solid meals.  The food and rest were good, but with Captain PJ Conlon back in the lineup after missing Saturday's game due to SAT requirements, the club would show up with its full complement of forwards, all ready to play.

It would not take the Grizzlies long either to establish their dominance, outshooting the Kings in a scoreless first period 10-5.  Funny enough the period was likely best highlighted by a miraculous Matt Galadja kick save on Liam Lawson. The NHL 94' inspired Kirk MacLean like save was so unbelievable that Powell River fans stood and cheered for the apparent Lawson goal, only to see that somehow the puck had remained outside of the Grizzlies' net.  

In the second period after some fine Tyler Welsh and Chuck Bennis passing, Jake Stevens, on his 19th birthday would dispatch a wrist shot to put the Grizzlies up 1-0.  With more scoring from Dante Hahn on a quick 2 on 1, the Grizzlies were soon up 2-0.  Austin Kamer would reply on a wrap around for Powell River soon enough but the Grizzlies would answer right back late in the 2nd period with Brayden Geslinger's, team leading 11th goal of the season. 

Kirk MacLean in 1989 looking much like #35 Matt Galadja for the Grizzlies on 6 Dec, 2015
The teams would skate hard in the 3rd period when tempers would finally explode between The Undertaker and the Kings' Halagian.  Bennis would land the majority of the connections in spite of the linesmen's interference which caused an early stop at which point Halagian would attempt to re-ignite the battle to no avail.  A long range, empty net goal by Conlon would wrap up the contest 4-1 and see the Grizzlies now 2-1 on the season at The Hap.  The tired but satisfied Grizzlies were exited to soon be boarding a single ferry back to Vancouver Island.

But unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Mother Nature had other plans.  With an approaching winter storm seen only in biblical references, the Grizzlies bus would find itself sitting at the Powell River Terminal, the team painfully hoping against hope that the near 100km/hr winds were not too much for the venerable BC Ferries Corporation to manage.  With a few hours to kill and a nearby bowling alley only yards away, the Grizzlies would bowl away the time.  Meanwhile outside, terrifying meteorological events seemingly inspired by world-wide CO2 levels which might surprise even Al Gore, pounded away at the tiny town famous for its beautiful sunshine and shiny glossy white paper.

Storm #2 on 6 Dec, slams Powell River (Grizzlies bus visible in right corner of storm's eye)
Facing a second Plan B in as many days, the Grizzlies would be stuck for the night in Powell River, trapped in a hotel which was nearly ripped from its foundations but safe in the knowledge that three new facts have emerged about this plucky team from Victoria:

a) The Grizzlies goaltending is as good as any in the league and can win on any night;
b) Avoiding Khumbu Ice Fall travel, the Grizzlies can now win at will at The Hap Parker; and
c) The legend of The Undertaker continues to grow throughout the BCHL.

Photo of Chuck Bennis, The Undertaker, "keeping it real" for the rookies during the "Post Win Team Bonding Session" at a local hotel in PR 
Failing any need for another dreaded Plan B, the Grizzlies will entertain the Alberni Valley Bulldogs tomorrow night at The Q Centre.  Sherpas not required.  Talk to you Tuesday night everybody. -CC

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