Well guess what? That's the 2015/16 Victoria Grizzlies. Well now it is anyway....
The Grizzlies have great goaltending and not only that but it is a very deep position. Mitchell Benson was likely not expecting to start in Nanaimo last night after getting the nod vs Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday. But with a precautionary rest to Matt Galajda, the versatile back-up came in and stopped 44 shots out of the 47 he faced and stonewalled the frustrated Nanaimo Clippers for the very first time this season. Dam Buster Benson as I like to call him did it again. On 27 Sep he registered his team's first very BCHL win and broke the win-loss dam wide open. Last night he blew open the dam on the (previously 6-0 vs Victoria) Nanaimo Clippers in front of almost 1,700 screaming fans at the Frank Crane. The atmosphere there was electric! Best BCHL game I have watched in years.
|Benson, first to register a win vs Clippers this season|
Then you add to that formula, the uber strong Grizzlies defensive corps this season and things soon get very tough on opponents. Last night is a case in point. After retaking the lead for the second time on another patented Kevin Massy walk-in play from the point, the Grizzlies had a problem. Suddenly finding themselves down to 4 defensemen with injuries to Drayson Pears and an ejection to KMass early in the third, the Grizzlies needed help on D.
|#2 Bennis and #4 Stevens key to win in Nanaimo|
|Stalwart Defensemen like Chuck Bennis, are a big part of the Grizzlies Secret Sauce in 2016|
|Could #6 Brett Stirling's "Boy Band Good Looks" and rock hard play soon be signing a deal with Boost Oxygen as their new franchise spokesperson?|
I would bet that preparing to face Victoria must be very tough for opposing coaches on most nights. You just never know which Grizzlies forward is going to step up and hurt you. Mitchell Barker, who has scored 4 goals in his past 5 games, assisted again last night on Massy's tying goal in the first period. Barker who unfortunately was later ejected for a Hitting From Behind Minor Penalty has been as good as any of the suddenly white hot 3rd and 4th Liners for the Grizz.
|#26 Barker, is just one more veteran getting hot at the right time of the year|
And the leaders continue to just do their business night in and night out. PJ Conlon (+2) sporting what Moe from Slap Shot would have called "a very deep cut" after getting a stick to the face, just skated back to the bench and let Steph Tamboline patch him up and send him right back out again. He never missed a shift. Conlon who is quietly rocketing up the scoring stats with another 3 points last night is leading players like Cole Pickup (also 3 points and +3), Brayden Gelsinger (1 assist and +1) and Dante Hahn (1 goal, +1) with a quiet and understated leadership style which reminds me at times of a younger Brian Skrudland.
|PJ Conlon (right), alongside Cole Pickup (left) in the Frank Crane Dressing Room last night after getting repairs|
The Grizzlies will take on the Alberni Valley Bulldogs tonight in the hopes of pushing this 7-0 BCHL winning streak to 8 wins tonight in front of what will hopefully be a very big crowd at The Q Centre. In the meantime, we will await any league supplementary discipline which could get handed out to Massy or Barker in view of the aforementioned ejections from last night. We shall see.
Regardless, my sense is that this Grizzlies team is starting to seriously turn some heads around the league. With Alberni HC Kevin Willison and A/HC Adam Hayduk both in attendance scouting the game last night, in Nanaimo, it was clear to me that important people are definitely starting to pay attention. With a night off, it would not surprise me at all if I saw Clippers HC Mike Vandekamp and AC Blake Clement in Colwood this evening. I think it is safe to say that a lot of hockey officials and fans are becoming very much interested in this Grizzlies Secret Formula. See you tonight. -CC