Grizzlies Fall Short in Tough Battle With Penticton

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

October 18, 2014, Penticton, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Grizzlies matched the Penticton Vees nearly step for step, but came up on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision in a hard fought BC Hockey League matchup Saturday night at the South Okanagan Entertainment Complex in Penticton.

Victoria’s Garrett Forster drives hard to the net against Penticton defender Mike Lee (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Despite the loss, the Grizzlies sent a pretty strong message to the Vees and to the rest of the BCHL…they are big, they are fast, they are skilled and they can play hard against anyone, including the now 10-1 league leading Vees.

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Victoria’s Storm Wahlrab (27) looks for a way around Vee’s defender Jarod Hilderman (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Grizzlies came out a little tentatively, as one might expect when facing the Vees, allowing the home side to have some early scoring opportunities that were denied by Grizzlies goaltender Sean Cleary, who was making his second start in as many nights.

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Victoria’s Kevin Massy watches after letting a shot go during first period action Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Grizzlies then relaxed and started using their size and throwing their bodies at the Vees and that seemed to knock the high flying Penticton team on their heels, forcing them into an early penalty.

The Grizzlies would take advantage of that and take a 1-0 lead on a nice one-time goal from Jay Mackie at the 5:07 mark, as he sniped one past Vees goaltender Hunter Miska, silencing the crowd of 2,406 that were in attendance.

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Victoria’s Nathan Forster (9) goes hard on the forecheck on Penticton’s Mike Lee (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Grizzlies physical play would get them in trouble midway through the period however, when hard hitting Ayden MacDonald would absolutely crush a Vees defender into the corner glass, but because the linesman whistled the play late for icing, MacDonald was assessed a roughing penalty.

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Victoria forward Brett Gruber heads toward the net looking for a shot (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The high flying Vees powerplay unit would make the Grizzlies pay, with Tyson Jost scoring at 10:18 to tie the game 1-1.

Both teams would continue to have chances, with the Vee’s out shooting the Grizzlies 13-8, but both Cleary and Miska would be solid and the teams went to the break tied at a goal each.

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Victoria’s Storm Wahlrab (27) looks to make a pass while being checked by Penticton defender Mike Lee in third period action Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In the second, the fans were treated to some high quality hockey as both teams took turns at maintaining offensive pressure and generating scoring chances, but neither team could score and the teams remained tied late into the frame.

The Vees would catch a break however late in the period, when a mad scramble would ensue in front of the Grizzlies net and Liam Finlay would bang a loose puck past Cleary with 1:23 remaining to score his first career BCHL goal and to put the Vees in front 2-1.

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Grizzlies forward Matt Kennedy (19) carris the puck into Vees territory between a pair of Penticton defenders (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The third period was just as exciting as the second, again with both teams having great chances, but with both goalies making big saves, most notably the Vees Miska, who came up huge on a number of Grizzlies chances late in the frame.

The Grizzlies did pull their goalie late to try and get the equalizer, but would be unable to do so and the Vees would hold on for the exciting win.

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Penticton’s Riley Alferd boxes out Victoria’s Shawn McBride following a face-off in Saturday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Despite the loss, Grizzlies Head Coach Brad Knight had a positive outlook on his team’s performance, “It was a pretty entertaining game and I thought our guys sent a strong message tonight that we can play with anyone in this league. We needed a couple of breaks, which you need when you are on the road, and we didn’t get them. When we get the chance to play Penticton again, I’m confident we’ll beat them. I think they are a good club, but I think they are beatable and if we can get some breaks then we will win next time out. I like the way we played, I think we worked hard, I think we had a few guys that know they could have played better and I think they know that. I liked our effort though.”

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Penticton’s Jack Ramsay (left) and Victoria’s Storm Wahlrab (right) exchange pleasantries in Saturday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win gives the Vees their seventh in a row and moves their record to 10-1, first overall in the league, one point up on Chilliwack, who lead the Mainland Division with 9-1-0-1 record.

For the Grizzlies, with yet another one-goal decision under their belts, it marks the ninth game out of the ten they have played and their seventh in a row that have been decided by a single goal. Their record drops to 5-4-0-1 and they remain in second place, four points back of Nanaimo, in the Island Division.

The Grizzlies won’t have much time to pout about the tough loss, as they have to rebound for an afternoon game against Merritt on Sunday. Puck drop is 2:00 pm in Merritt.

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