Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Value of Momentum

It was a wet and cold night going over the Malahat on Tuesday night, but that didn't seem to worry the Grizzlies who were playing in the rubber match in a season long series vs the Cowichan Valley Capitals which was tied 3-3 at the time.  In less than three hours, the Grizzlies bus would be on its return trip, this time flush with two points on the road after a commanding 7-1 win over the Capitals who frankly looked shell shocked after suffering such a significant loss a home.

The game surprised everyone, but not the first period.  In spite to a pair of penalties against the Grizzlies, shots at the end of the Period #1 were 15-5 in favour of the visitors.  The Grizzlies had plenty of chances but the key moment in the entire game for me was a curious decision by Coach Craig Didmon to use up his timeout with only 51 seconds left in the period.  After an icing call which left his charges gassed, Didmon recognised the strategic significance of what it would mean to suddenly give up a goal so late in the period after dominating it so well.

The ISC, sight of the 7-1 Grizzlies victory on Tuesday night
The timeout worked and moments later the Grizzlies and Caps retired to their respective rooms tied at 0-0 but with Victoria still enjoying the full balance of momentum.  In my humble view, it was the turning point of the contest.

Just a minute and a half into the second period, that momentum would prove vital as the Grizzlies would score off a beautiful half spin move by #17 Joey Visconti.  The Ontario native found himself parked at the right side of Cowichan goalie Storm Phaneuf's crease after a long pass from Illinois D-Man, Jake Setvens who spotted Visconti heading through the slot.  Visconti, waited out Phaneuf and fired the puck over the former QMJHL goal tender and the Grizz were in front for the first time.

Late in the period the Captain, PJ Conlon, who was +5 on the night, would score what looked like a PP goal but with time expiring on the penalty to the Caps, Brayden Gelsinger would make a beautiful cross ice pass from the slot and feed Conlon who was beavertailing for the pass at the far right of Phaneuf.  Conlon dispatched a picture perfect one-timer and suddenly it was 2-0 Grizzlies on the road versus a team who won all three of the first meetings between the two clubs.

The PG Coliseum at -11 without wind chill will host the Grizzlies Friday night
But the bigger story of the game to that point however was Matt Galajda, once again turning back shot after shot and when necessary halting play when he felt pressure.  This goalie is starting to now garner the attention of the whole league.  His GAA numbers are now in the top 3 and his win-loss record in the last two months is as good as any goalie in the league.

But it was the third period which saw what is really interesting about this year's Victoria Grizzlies.  This team is truly a team of redemption.  After suffering through the worst start in franchise history, the Grizzlies now seem to have shaken off the past and are scoring at will on most nights.  They are also defending with a fierce determination.

Saturday night will see the Grizz return to Chilliwack, site of the team's frist win of the 2015/16 season

With two more quick goals, Conlon would earn a natural hat trick early into the third period which would be his first as a Grizzly but more importantly would represent the team's second hat trick in three games after witnessing Gelsinger's 3 goal performance on Friday night versus the Kings.  The period would continue to go all Grizzlies with Pickup scoring a goal along with his three assists but only after Gelsinger (my pick for BCHL Player of the Week BTW) would score his 6th goal in three games.  The game would end with a Nick Guiney unassisted goal on a breakaway created by the Langford native who timed a wayward interception in the neutral zone perfectly.

Sunday, the Grizzlies will close out the 4 game road swing on the Olympic size surface in Surrey
The Grizzlies now get set for three big games on the road in the longest road trip of the year in Prince George, Chilliwack and Surrey.  In PG, the Grizzlies will see A/HC Tyler Matheson behind the bench for the very first time as the Acting HC with Coach Didmon back in Victoria with school teaching duties.  We will now see if this surging Grizzlies club, the only BCHL team without a defeat in the 2016 calendar year can keep this theme of redemption and its incredible momentum on the rise as the month of January reaches the midway mark.  Talk to you from the Prince George Coliseum on Friday night everybody. -CC

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