Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
November 14, 2014, Trail, BC (ISN) – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is the opening sentence of the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, but it can easily be used to describe the Victoria Grizzlies BCHL season to date, winning one , losing another, winning one, losing another, winning one and on Friday night, reaching by far the worst of times this season, losing 10-4 to the Trail Smoke Eaters on the road at the Cominco Arena in Trail.
Victoria’s Mitch Barker dumps the puck in past Trail defender Bryan Gerstenfeld in first period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The “worst of times” might also apply to the travel schedule the Grizzlies had to endure to get to Trail, involving two days of bus travel, leaving Thursday and overnighting in Kelowna and then another 5 hours on the bus (and back) to get to Trail on Friday. All for just a 2.5 hour hockey game.
That long travel schedule and the fact that the Grizzlies had not played in six days was evident in a sloppy first period Friday, that saw the teams combine for only seven shots, five from the Grizzlies and head to the break tied at 0-0. The Grizzlies did come close however late in the frame when Jay Mackie walked into the slot and clanged one off the post with just over a minute remaining, a shot, had it gone in, that perhaps could have changed the entire complexion of the game.
Victoria’s Mitch Barker (7) and Trail’s Scott Davidon (21) battle for the loose puck in front of Trail goaltender Brett Clark (35)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Instead, just 1:13 into the second frame, it would be the Smokies who would tally the first goal on a powerplay marker from Kienan Scott, scoring with Cody Van Lierop in the box for holding. They would add to that less than a minute later on a goal from Harlan Orr (his first of what would be three for the game), before the Grizzlies Brett Gruber would respond, banging home a Dane Gibson rebound at 8:06 to get the Grizzlies back in the mix.
Victoria forward Dane Gibson, who would have one of the Grizzlies goals, looks for an opportunity during the second period Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
It was then, that for no apparent reason, the wheels came off the bus and over the remaining eleven minutes or so of the period, much to the delight of the 1,077 fans in attendance, the Smoke Eaters put six more pucks behind Grizzlies starter Michael Stiliadis to take an 8-2 lead into the second break.
Victoria’s Garrett Forster would clang this second period shot off the post on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Beginning the onslaught was an unassisted goal at 9:56 from Victoria native and Saanich Jr. B product Hunter Atchison, followed in rapid succession by goals from Bryan Basilico (12:20) and Charlie Zuccarini (15:48) to make it 5-1.
Victoria’s Ayden MacDonald gets a shot off from his knees during second period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
While that may have been a lead the Grizzlies could take aim at over the remainder of the game, an undisciplined penalty for head contact to the Grizzlies Ayden MacDonald at 17:21 gave the Smokies a 5-minute major power play, on which they scored three more times before the period was out. In that span, Orr had a pair of goals to complete his hat-trick and while Matthew Kennedy was able to respond short-handed for the Grizzlies, Trail’s Jeremy Lucchini put the final dagger in the Grizzlies back, scoring right at the buzzer to give Trail the 8-2 lead into the intermission.
Victoria defenceman Cody Van Lierop looks for a shot opportunity in Friday’ action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the third, Stiliadis would finally be replaced in net by the Grizlies backup Sean Cleary and he would be greeted by the Smokies 9th goal of the game by Craig Martin 5:27 into the frame. The Grizzlies would respond on the powerplay at 11:21 with Jake Emilio getting his first since returning from injury, to make it 9-3. An exchange of goals from the Smokies Max Newton and the Grizzlies Dane Gibson rounded out the scoring for the evening, making the final 10-4 for Trail.
The Grizzlies Dane Gibson looks for a pass opportunity during third period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In a quiet change room following the game, Grizzlies Head Coach Brad Knight summed it up well, “We had a bad period, we had a bad game. Everyone has them and over the course of a 60 game season, we’ll get beat badly and we’ll beat other teams the same way. We need to learn from our mistakes tonight and more importantly, come out tomorrow and play well. How we respond to this in our game tomorrow against West Kelowna will be important for us and will set the stage for our team moving forward.”
Victoria’s Jay Mackie carries the puck into the Trail end during third period action on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
On the plus side, the fact that the Grizzlies do play right away on Saturday allows them no time to brood on the poor performance Friday. They have to purge this game from their system right away and focus on a new opponent. Let’s hope the Grizzlies can do that well and salvage something out of those games on Saturday night (in West Kelowna) and Sunday (in Vernon), so that this season does not quickly turn into what Dickens also called the “season of Darkness…winter of despair,” in those opening lines of that classic novel.
Trail defenceman Jeremy Lucchini (6) races to a loose puck along with the Grizzlies Dane Gibson (16) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Victoria native and Saanich Jr. B product Hunter Atchison was in the line-up and had a goal and an assist for the Smokies. Cleary finished with 14 saves on 16 shots in his relief appearance. In a statistical oddity thanks to the major penalty, the Smokies were 4 for 3 on the powerplay. The Grizzlies were 1 for 5. Victoria’s Storm Wahlrab went hard into the boards in the first period Friday and appeared to injure himself (upper-body) and saw very limited ice the remainder of the game. He will be a game-time decision Saturday. It seems the Grizzlies aren’t the only BCHL team experiencing attendance issues as despite the announced crowd of over 1,000, there were plenty of empty orange seats at the Cominco Arena on Friday.