Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Call The Plumber, Grizzlies On a Roll

How much do you want to bet that when the Surrey Eagles coaches were preparing for the Grizzlies on Sunday, Joey Visconti wasn't a huge part of the pregame speech?  I doubt you would have heard:  "And no matter what, watch out for #17, Visconti.   He is flat out crazy good and he can kill any team, sometimes almost single handed on any given night.  That's Visconti V-I-S-C-O-N-T-I, #17"  My guess is that the Eagles coaches failed to mention Visconti or for that mater, any of the Grizzlies Plumbers.  The truth is that they probably should have.  That's because if they had bothered to read any of the team's recent box scores they would have noticed that as of late, the Grizzlies have had no issue in picking up the phone and calling the plumber.

Caps Killer Visconti has 3 goals this season vs Cowichan
In the span of just 20 minutes of play from the 3:47 mark of the first period, the white hot Visconti, who scored at the ISC last Tuesday would score two goals and set up two more vs Surrey.  That was just for starters.  By the third period Visconti would score his third of the game and give his Grizzlies team its third Hat Trick in 5 games.  Moments later he would make another of his trademark slick moves on the PK.  He would steal the puck and go in all alone on Surrey net minder Justin Laforest, and nearly score his fourth goal of the game.  In the broadcast booth, the Eagles' score keepers were inconsolable, pounding on the table in disgust as Visconti nearly single handedly broke the spirit of their club in front of their home town fans.  Visconti would earn his first ever BCHL First Star of the Game honours in the decisive 7-2 win.  It was a big weekend for The Plumbers.

On Sunday vs Surrey, Visconti was 3G, 2A and a +3
SNL back in the 1970s used to run this great skit where Dan Aykroyd would play the role of this hilarious and incompetent plumber.  Aykroyd would always find the most horribly grotesque ways of bending over in pants and t-shirts which were far too tight to inspect a broken appliance like a fridge or a stove.  "Look at that, an old Nord!  I haven't seen one of these babes quite in a while."  I am sure that through the magic of YouTube you can probably find some of those old sketches, but if not the Grizzlies have a bunch of plumbers themselves you may want to check out.  The difference is that these are highly competent Grizzlies plumbers and they are contributing to recent team success in ways Dan Aykroyd would be most proud of.

Aykroyd in 1976 would have made a fine Plumber for the Grizzlies
It was a big weekend for The Plumbers as I like to call the 4th Liners.  It was a weekend full of offense which came from all sorts of unlikely sources in fact.  On Sunday just two days after finishing off the Prince George Spruce Kings with a long range EN goal, Mitchell Barker would open the scoring for Victoria.  Barker put the Grizzlies ahead leading the attack vs Surrey in the first frame.  Then it was Dante Hahn's turn on the backhand and Tyler Welsh on the PP.  Both players, much more used to scoring, would add 2nd period goals for Victoria and it was 5-0 when play started in the 3rd period. 

Defenseman Cody Van Lierop would exit the game early after laying out one of his patented trademark hits.  Unfortunately as he finished the check he would somehow earn a nasty cut to his lower lip and require a short visit to a local area hospital for repairs.  But the Grizzlies would just keep pouring on the power with a massive shot advantage along with both strong physical and finesse play.  Later Conlon would score his 14th goal on the season from Brayden Gelsinger and Kevin Massy.  But The Plumbers were the story on Sunday night with Alex Peck, a 2nd Game Star earning a pair of assists and Jared Virtanen having a great night himself.  Mitchel Benson would earn his 3rd victory in net turning aside 27/29 Surrey shots.

About 25+ Grizzlies fans travelled to Surrey to cheer on Drayson Pears and the Grizzlies
On Friday night, the Grizzlies were also able to rise to the challenge of a road game with their one and only trip to the Prince George Coliseum in a 4-2 victory.  Tyler Welsh playing well on that top line would score after only 6:34 from a resurgent Cole Pickup and the BCHL's Player of the Week, Captain PJ Conlon.  But it was another night of unlikely scoring for the Grizzlies as Brett Stirling would fire home a hard shot from the point on the man-advantage, tying the game at 2-2.  This would come only moments after the Sprucers had gone ahead in front of their 1,087 fans.  Van Lierop would restore the lead for Victoria late in the 2nd period from what looked like a fairly benign shot from the point which somehow found the back of Liam McCloskey's net.  The goal would come after more fine passing from the Langford connection of Massy and Pickup, both of whom are putting up some serious points since the New Year. 

The always trusty Stirling would be called on late to help hold the 3-2 lead for his goalie, Mitchel Benson with a defensive stand facing an empty Prince George net with just seconds remaining in the contest.  Stirling would help fight the puck off the boards for his centreman, the aforementioned Barker who had just pulled off yet another of his Guy Carboneau like draws and fire home the insurance goal via the empty net. The game would finish 4-2.  Benson, who got the start would earn his 2nd victory in the win.  Benson was solid all night and was 2-0 on the weekend and now sits at 3-10 on the year.

#31 Benson has owned the Spruce Kings (2-0) in 2015/16
Don't look now but the Victoria Grizzlies are 5-0 in the calendar year of 2016 and are now the only team in the league who can boast that perfect record.  So while many fans were obviously disappointed with the cancellation of Saturday's game vs the Chilliwack Chiefs due to a broken bus in Boston Bar and a road closure, one very good thing might have come out of the experience.  With rookies Keyvan Mokhtari and Drayson Pears both down with illness on Friday night vs Prince George, their participation in the Chilliwack game was very much in doubt anyway.  So really, maybe not playing the Chiefs on Saturday wasn't such a bad thing after all, an unscheduled night off may have helped in the big picture.

The Grizzlies are certainly a different team in 2016 and it harkens back to some hopes and predictions which I made a few blogs ago about the prospects for this plucky team.  In the Mid-Year Report Card, I talked about the balanced scoring, the fantastic goal tending along with big but equally mobile and gifted defensemen.  I also talked about the Plumbers.  I discussed the fact that I felt that should they get even a modest amount of offensive support from The Plumbers that the bigger scoring lines would continue to perform well.  That along with the excellent goal tending would prove vital to future success.  I suggested that a combination of all those factors could make the Grizzlies a potential Cinderella in the run up to the playoffs. 

While there are many games left to play, the Grizzlies are very quietly starting to sneak up on their Island Division opponents, the Powell River Kings and the Cowichan Valley Capitals.  Surely both clubs must sense the Grizzlies approaching in the distance.  Just a month ago, there were very few who gave these Grizzlies much respect. Fewer gave them a chance of doing very much in the playoffs, if in fact they even made the playoffs.  But things rarely stay the same very long in the BCHL.  Now suddenly opposition coaches are perhaps thinking about mentioning the names of Grizzlies players in pregame speeches whom you might not have heard a few months ago, names like Virtanen, Peck, Barker and Visconti, The Plumbers.


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