Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
November 16, 2014, Vernon, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Grizzlies faced a long and quiet bus ride home Sunday night, looking for answers after dropping a 5-1 decision to the Vernon Vipers In BCHL action Sunday afternoon at Kal Tire Place in Vernon.
Victoria’s Ayden MacDonald provides the screen on Vernon goaltender Jarrod Schamerhorn, while Brett Gruber lurks in the background. Gruber would tap in a rebound off this shot for the Grizzlies only goal of the game Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The loss was the Grizzlies third straight, all coming on this weekend three game road trip and all starting with a disastrous showing in Trail on Friday where they were humbled 10-4 by the Smoke Eaters.
They did manage to come out of the trip with a single point in a heartbreaking 3-2 OT loss in West Kelowna on Friday, but that would be the only highlight of an otherwise frustrating journey to the interior.
Victoria’s Cole Pickup (14) navigates through a pair of Viper’s defenders during Sunday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Grizzlies Head Coach Brad Knight summed up the lost weekend quite bluntly, “Our best players need to be better than the other teams’ best players. Plain and simple. Too many people are following and they are following the followers. We need someone to step up and lead and take charge. “
The Grizzlies also need to stop hurting themselves with penalties. On Saturday, the team had two players ejected for game misconducts (including leading scorer Dane Gibson, who sat out Sunday in the first of a two game suspension) and faced an extended two-man advantage on two occassions. On Sunday in Vernon, the Vipers only went 1 for 7 on the powerplay, but that one goal was their first of the game and came late in a first period that the Grizzlies were dominating, changing the tone of the game toward the home Vipers.
Former Grizzlie and Victoria native Mitch Meek (6) would have an assist Sunday against his old teammates (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Using the momentum of that first goal, the Vipers added to their lead with another in the second and then came storming out in the third, eliminating any chance of a Grizzlies comeback, by scoring three goals in the first five minutes of the period to take a 5-0 lead before Brett Gruber finally got the Grizzlies on the board with a powerplay marker with just under ten minutes to play.
Grizzlies forward Cole Pickup (14) digs for a loose puck along the boards against the Vipers Brenden Egli (2) and Trever Fidler (14) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Leading the way for the Vipers was Liam Finlay with a goal and two assists, while Luke Shiplo had a goal and an assist. Other goal scores for Vernon were TJ Dumonceaux, Colton McCarthy and Trevor Fidller. Former Grizzlie Mitch Meek had an assist against his old teammates.
Vernon goaltender Jarrod Schamerhorn stopped 30 of 31 shots for the win. Victoria’s Michael Stiliadis stopped 29 of 34 in the losing effort.
Zachary Dixon and Meirs Moore drew assists on the goal by Gruber.
Viper’s Captain Riley Guenther carries the puck from behind his net, ahead of pressure from the Grizzlies’ Brett Gruber (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Grizzlies have now played exactly one-third of their schedule. When they are on their game and when they play according to game plan, they can play against anyone in the league, as they have shown in close games against teams like Penticton and Nanaimo. When they stray away from the game plan and play undisciplined, then games like Friday in Trail end up as the result. It will be up to the players to dig down deep and look inward and challenge themselves to be better every practice and every game from this point forward, so as to reverse the fortunes of the last few games and get the team back on a winning trend.
Victoria’s Matt Kennedy carries the puck into the Vipers end during third period action Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
This is something that hopefully a few players did on the bus ride home Sunday, as the schedule does not get any easier for the Grizzlies this week and they face a four game week with a home-and home against Division leading Namaimo Wednesday (in Nanaimo) and Friday at The Q Centre, followed by a road trip to Powell River on Saturday and a quick turn around for game with Trail at the Q Centre on Sunday afternoon.
It is safe to say that the next four games are huge for the Grizzlies and may be a key deciding factor in the direction they are headed for the rest of the year.
Game Notes: Victoria’s Storm Wahlrab (upper body) and Dane Gibson (suspension) did not play Sunday. Gruber’s goal was his 10th of the season, most by any Grizzlie. Defenceman Jake Emilio has three goals and an assist in the four games he has played for the Grizzlies so far this season. The loss drops the Grizzlies to .500 on the season at 8-8-0-4.