Grizzlies Get Big Road Win Against Bulldogs

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

November 1, 2014, Port Alberni, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Grizzlies scored four third period goals, including the game winner by Matt Kennedy and a pair of empty netters, to emerge with a 5-2 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in BCHL action Saturday night in Port Alberni.

Victoria’s Dane Gibson, who would finish with a pair of assists, looks to make a move on Alberni Valley’s Darian Henry during the first period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Leading the way for the Grizzlies on the scoresheet was Matthew Kennedy who had a pair of goals, including the first of the game, at 15:18 of the first period, as well as the game winner, with 1:18 left in the game.

The game featured a playoff atmosphere throughout, as these division rivals battled hard, throwing check after check and keeping the crowd of 1,089 – 40 or so of which were Grizzlies fans who made the trek on a fan bus – well entertained.

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Victoria Head Coach Brad Knight, who made his return Saturday after serving a three-game suspension, goes over last minute strategy prior to Saturday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Grizzlies held a 1-0 lead after the first, but saw that disappear when Mitch Makin scored for Alberni Valley 4:28 into the second. The Bulldogs had a prime opportunity to move into the lead late in the period when the Grizzlies Cody Van Lierop took a 5-minute major for high sticking, however the Grizzlies penalty kill and goaltender Michael Stiliadis did their job to keep the ‘Dogs off the board. Alberni then took a penalty of their own to even things up and take the teams into the second break tied 1-1.

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Victoria’s Garrett Forster looks for an opening for a shot during Saturday’s action against Port Alberni (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The third period featured more exciting action from both teams, but the Grizzlies began to dominate in the Alberni end just before the mid-point of the frame. On a particularly strong forecheck at the 8-minute mark or so, the puck bounced to Cole Pickup in the slot, he knocked it down with his glove and then snapped a nice shot over Alberni goaltender Billy Christopoulos to put the Grizzlies up 2-1.

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Port Alberni defenceman Brett Stewart tries to avoid the forecheck of the Grizzlies Jay Mackie (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Bulldogs kept battling however and were able to tie it up on a shorthanded goal by Darian Henry at the 17:46 mark. The goal had some minor confusion to it, as the referees were not sure it had crossed the line. After referee Mike Christians double checked with the goal judge, the goal stood and the game was tied.

The Grizzlies were not to be deterred however and they came right back and scored on the same powerplay at the 18:42 mark. Dane Gibson won a tough battle in the corner and flipped a pass to the front of the net, where Kennedy was in position to make a beautiful tip over the shoulder of Christopoulos for the go-ahead goal.

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The Grizzlies Matt Kennedy, here looking to make a pass during the second period, would score twice for the Grizzlies, including the game winner in the third (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

As soon as possible after the ensuing faceoff, the Bulldogs pulled Christopoulos for the extra attacker, but Mitchell Barker would pop one into the empty net with 42 seconds remaining and Kevin Massy would add another with 12 seconds remaining to seal the deal for the Grizzlies and send them home with the 5-2 win.

While, technically, the 3-goal victory snaps an amazing run of one-goal hockey games that the Grizzlies have been involved in, the game was essentially decided by a single goal, given the two empty net markers at the end. In any case, the Grizzlies are playing some exciting and entertaining hockey and that suits Grizzlies Head Coach Brad Knight – in his first game back from a three game suspension – just fine. “Hats off to Port Alberni in this game, they have a good team and they matched us shift for shift tonight. That makes for some exciting hockey for the fans and for the players. I don’t mind the one goal games, especially when you get the wins. If you have to play one-goal games all year, then you have to play them all year. Let’s be honest, the bottom line is making sure the fans – Port Alberni’s, ours, whoever’s, are getting their money’s worth and being treated to a good, exciting hockey game. When they are all as close as the games we’ve been involved with so far this season, then that is happening for sure.”

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Victoria’s Mitch Barker (7) would score the final goal of the game for the Grizzlies, his third of the year,  into an empty net (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

With the win, the Grizzlies move to 7-6-0-2, but remain in 4th place in the Island Division, now just one point back of Alberni Valley. The Bulldogs drop to 8-6-1-0. The Grizzlies next action is on Friday November 7th when the powerful Penticton Vees come to town for a visit to the Q Centre. That is followed by the first visit of the year of the Powell River Kings on Saturday. Puck drop for both games is 7:00 pm.

Game Notes: Grizzlies goaltender Michael Stiliadis made 29 saves for the win and was awarded the first star of the game. The Grizzlies Storm Wahlrab and the Bulldog’s Zak Bowles were both ejected in the first period for a spirited fight. The Grizzlies made a small roster move this week, releasing Victoria native Nathan Looysen. Looysen has gone back to the Peninsula Panthers of the VIJHL and will reportedly be moving soon to the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL.

Christian J. Stewart
Christian is a professional photographer and media professional based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently working as the Assistant General Manager for Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club, a Senior Contributing Editor and photographer at Independent Sports News (ISN) and operating his own freelance photography and media/pr company.