Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
November 19, 2014, Nanaimo, BC (ISN) – Zach Dixon had a pair of power play goals, including the game winner with 2:50 remaining in the game, to lead the Victoria Grizzlies to an exciting 5-4 win over the Coastal Division leading Nanaimo Clippers in BCHL action Wednesday night at Frank Crane arena in Nanaimo.
The Grizzlies Ayden MacDonald, who would later score his first BCHL goal, looks for a pass opportunity in the first period Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win gave the Grizzlies a much needed Victory to cap off a gruelling four game road trip – their longest to date away from The Q Centre – one which saw the Grizzlies drop three straight in the Interior last weekend.
After those losses, the Grizzlies were struggling to find answers for their play and on Wednesday, it appeared that they found them, as for the most part, the Grizzlies dominated play and took the game to the Clippers, outshooting the Clippers 17-7 after the first period and 27-15 after two and holding a 4-2 lead at that point.
Victoria’s Matt Kennedy shields the puck from the check of Nanaimo’s Edwin Hookenson (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Despite their first period dominance, the Grizzlies faced some bad luck in that frame, as the Clippers hit the scoreboard first when Nicholas Carrier jammed one past Grizzlies starter Michael Stiliadis from the side of the net at the 6:53 mark to put the Clippers up 1-0.
The Grizzlies then got some puck luck of their own, something they have not had much of this season, when Chris Harpur lofted a shot toward the Clippers net that was heading well high and wide, but for some reason a Clippers defenceman waved his stick at the puck and accidentally deflected it past goaltender Guillaume Decelles to give Harpur his first career BCHL goal and tie the game 1-1 with just over 10 minutes to play in the period.
Nanaimo’s Yanni Kaldis (4) heads to his knees to play this puck while under pressure from the Grizzlies’ Spencer Hunter (21) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Nanaimo would re-take the lead at 14:18 on a goal from Austin Dick, but the Grizzlies would again respond with 2:11 remaining in the period, on their first of three power play goals on the night, this one from Jay Mackie, who took a pretty feed from Shawn McBride at the left face-off circle and rifled a shot up and over the shoulder of Decelles, tying things at 2-2 into the break.
The second period was all Grizzlies and they quickly silenced the announced crowd of 918 by scoring a pair of goals in the first 5 minutes of the period to jump into a 4-2 lead.
Victoria’s Jay Mackie (18) would have a goal and two assists and earn second star honours in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Clippers (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Dixon struck first, on the power play, at 1:19 in almost a mirror image version of Mackie’s goal, blasting one home from the right hand face-off circle. Then towering 6’3″ rookie Ayden MacDonald walked out from behind the net and banked one in off Decelles at the 4:33 mark to score the first goal of his junior career.
That would be the end of the night for a frustrated Decelles and he was replaced in net by Clippers back-up goaltender Jakob Severson. Severson would hold the fort for the Clippers and the teams went to the second break with the Grizzlies holding their 4-2 lead.
Victoria’s Garrett Forster winds up for a shot Wednesday. Forster would have a pair of assists in the Grizzlies win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Given that they say a 2-goal lead is one of the toughest to have in hockey, plus the fact that most of the Grizzlies games this season have been decided by a single goal, the few Grizzlies fans in attendance, plus the coaches and staff, were all holding their breath to begin the third in anticipation of what might transpire.
And for good reason. The Clippers showed that they were not going to go away easily, scoring just 2:53 into the period to cut the lead to 4-3. On a defensive miscue, the Clippers Jacob Jackson was left wide open in the Victoria slot, where he took a pass from Yanni Kaldis and put a nice deke on Stiliadis for the goal.
Nanaimo’s Jake Jackson, who would have one of the Clipper goals, skates the puck out of his end in the third period Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Clippers would then even the score at the 12:02 mark, scoring on the power play just six seconds after Victoria’s PJ Conlon was whistled for high-sticking. Brendan Taylor was the goal scorer this time, beautifully tipping a hard point shot from Kaldis up and over Stiliadis to knot the score 4-4 and set up yet another exciting finish.
The Grizzlies then caught some more luck, as late in the game, the Clippers Ryan Forbes was assessed a misconduct penalty for allegedly saying the wrong thing to one of the linesman. While that did not result in a Grizzlies power play, it created some hot tempers on the Clippers bench and an undisciplined boarding penalty to the Clippers Sheldan Rempal less than 30 seconds later put the Grizzlies #1 power-play back to work.
They wasted very little time in responding, with Garret Forster winning the ensuing face-off back to Meirs Moore, who then slid it over to Dixon, who then blasted a laser through Severenson and into the net to put the Grizzlies up 5-4.
The Clippers would pull their goalie with just under a minute to go, but the Grizzlies and Stiliadis were able to hold the fort and escape with the big 5-4 win.
Nanaimo defenceman Nick Gushue (24) clears the puck away from a wide open net under pressure from Victoria’s Brett Gruber (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Speaking of Stiliadis, he stopped 23 of 27 shots to get the win and while it was probably not his best winning performance ever, it was important for his confidence to get the win, coming off two very bad losses over the weekend in the Interior and coming into Wednesday’s game having won just three of his last 10 starts.
The win was also important for the entire team’s confidence, first for rebounding with a solid performance after three tough losses and second and more importantly, sending them on a positive note into yet another tough weekend schedule that will see the Grizzlies host the Clippers in a re-match at The Q Centre on Friday night, then get up early to bus to Powell River for a 5:00 pm tilt with the Kings, then return home Sunday for a 2:00 pm game against Trail, the team that beat them 10-4 last Friday.
Victoria’s Zach Dixon would be the hero Wednesday, scoring a pair of powerplay goals, including the winner with 2:50 remaining (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Dixon with his two goals was the first star of the game. Storm Wahlrab (upper body) and Dane Gibson (suspension) were not in the Grizzlies line-up. Victoria native and Saanich Jr. B. product Nick Guerra saw action for the Clippers Wednesday. Dixon, Forster, Harpur, Mackie and McBride all had multi-point evenings for the Grizzlies.
More Victoria Grizzlies photos by Christian J. Stewart can be seen at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/grizzlies
Be sure to follow Christian J. Stewart on Twitter at @cjs_photography and Independent / Island Sports News at @islandsports1