Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
September 20, 2014, Chilliwack, BC (ISN) – Mitch Meek’s goal with 1:22 remaining in the first overtime period gave the Victoria Grizzlies a thrilling come from behind 5-4 victory over the Vernon Vipers in the Grizzlies opening game of the BCHL season in the BCHL Showcase at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
Victoria Garrett Forster would have a pair of goals to lead the Grizzlies to a 5-4 OT win over Vernon Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win was not an easy one for the Grizzlies as they had to overcome a 3-1 first period deficit, as well as a game-tying goal by the Vipers with 1:16 left to play that sent the game into overtime. They also had to overcome a not so pretty start that was likely a combination of nerves – 17 new faces are on the Grizzlies this season – rust and the fact that the Vipers were already on their second game of the season and had shook off all their first game jitters in their 2-0 win over Cowichan on Friday night.
Grizzlies forward Cole Pickup looks for an opening in the first period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The problems started for the Grizzlies just 23 seconds into the game when Cole Pickup was whistled for roughing. While the Vipers did not score on that power play opportunity, the early momentum they gained on it carried through and they would light the lamp a few minutes later at 4:49 of the period on a goal from Anthony Latina.
Things did not look good for the Grizzlies early as Anthony Latina and his Viper teammates celebrated three times in the first period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Grizzlies would tie things up at the 15:37 mark when a hard working Kevin Massy would tuck in his own rebound past Vipers starter Jarrod Schamerhorn, but less than a minute later, the Vipers regained the lead on a goal from Liam Coughlin.
Kevin Massy (11) would poke home his own rebound to get the Grizzlies on the board in the first period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
They would add to that lead with just 28 seconds remaining in the period when Trevor Fidler swooped in from the blue line and snapped a laser beam shot to the top corner past Grizzlies starter Michael Stiliadis.
Victoria’s Dane Gibson carries the puck into the Vipers end during the second period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
After the first period intermission, during which Grizzlies Head Coach Brad Knight calmly reminded his troops as to what the game plan was, the Grizzlies began to turn things around, taking the play to the Vipers and enjoying a number of opportunities early in the period.
After a shaky first period, Grizzlies’ goaltender Michael Stiliadis would be solid the rest of the way, earning the 5-4 OT win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
They would be rewarded for that effort when Garrett Forster potted his first of the season at the 3:22 mark, but despite outshooting the Vipers 12-7 for the period, that would be the only score of the frame and the Grizzlies headed into the second intermission down by one.
The Grizzlies once again began the third with more jump than the Vipers and aided by a power play marker by Brett Gruber, tied the game 3-3 at the 5:04 mark.
Brett Gruber (8) celebrates his game tying goal for the Grizzlies in the third period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
They would then jump into the lead at the 7:31 mark when Forster came in on the wing on a shorthanded break and sniped a beauty past Schamerhorn for the 4-3 lead.
Victoria’s Cole Pickup would be denied on this glorious third period opportunity by Viper goaltender Jarrod Schamerhorn (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Vipers did not let that goal get them down however and they continued to press and following a couple of big saves from Stiliadis, the Vipers Latina would jam home the tying goal with 1:16 to play after a mad goal mouth scramble. That, combined with a huge save from the Vipers Schamerhorn with just seven seconds remaining, would send the game into overtime.
Vernon’s Anthony Latina would score two of the Vipers’ 4 goals in the loss to Victoria Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the 4-on-4 extra frame, the Vipers would put some pressure on early, but then the Grizzlies began to dominate and with time winding down, the Vipers failed to clear their zone and Matthew Kennedy would slip a nice pass to an unattended Mitch Meek who would pull the puck to his forehand and flip it over the outstretched glove of Schamerhorn to give the Grizzlies the 5-4 win.
Victoria goaltender Michael Stiliadis would stare down Vernon’s Ayden MacDonald on this second period scoring chance (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win was Grizzlies’ Head Coach Knight’s first in the BCHL and he praised his players for their comeback effort, “Our first period was tough, but we expected that a bit, given that they played yesterday, but I really loved the way we played in the second and third when we started to get after them. Our skating showed, our conditioning showed, we played hard and I am really proud of them.”
Vernon’s TJ Demonceaux (left) shows Victoria’s PJ Conlon a little bit of love during a third period scrum Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win was also a debut win of sorts for Victoria’s Sean McBride, who earns his first BCHL win as a Captain. “It feels really good to get that win, and just like any win, whether it’s the first game or any game, it’s nice to get it, whether I’m the Captain or not. We had a bit of a slow start, but we got our legs under us and we started taking the play to them and it ended well.”
Victoria Captain Shawn McBride looked comfortable in his first official BCHL as Captain and on defence (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Grizzlies scoring hero Garrett Forster, whose two goals earned him first star honours and put him on pace to score 116 goals on the season, was pleased with the game, but is not quite sure he can match that pace. “It was good to get that first win out of the way. We’ve all been working hard at camp and it was good to get things going in the right direction. Not sure if I can get that many on the year but I’ll definitely try!”
The Grizzlies are right back at it on Sunday as they return to Prospera Place to meet the Langley Rivermen in a 2:00 pm start.
Grizzlies Head Coach Brad Knight (centre) earned his first BCHL win Saturday, and gave credit to his assistants Scott Hawthorne (left) and Micah Aivazoff (right)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Four Grizzlies, Gruber, Forster, Massy and Jay Mackie had two-point games. Shots were 35-24 in the Grizzlies favour. The win marked the first points by an Island or Lower Mainland team in the Showcase to that point, as the Interior teams have been dominating. The Grizzlies left home Saturday morning two personnel short – including a certain ISN reporter and the team’s massage therapist – due to a scheduling mix-up. Thanks to Glen McBride (Shawn’s Dad) for playing limo driver and getting them to the game on time.