Grizzlies Stumble, Lose to Cap’s in Overtime

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Duncan, BC (ISN) – Julien Lepage’s goal at 2:21 of the first overtime period gave the Cowichan Valley Capitals a thrilling 6-5 comeback win against the Victoria Grizzles in BC Hockey League action Tuesday night at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan.

Cowichan’s Julien Lepage (21) would be the hero as he would score at 2:21 of overtime to give the Caps a 6-5 win over the visiting Victoria Grizzlies (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win capped a dramatic comeback that saw the Capitals score with just 35 seconds remaining in the game, with their goalie pulled, to tie the game 5-5 and send it to overtime. It also made up for the fact that the Capitals blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads only to see the Grizzlies tie things up and take the lead 4-3 midway through the second period.

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Victoria’s Jay Mackie (18) watches his first period backhand sail past the glove of Cowichan goaltender Matthew Zentner (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Capitals 2-0 lead was built on the strength of first period goals from Kade Kehoe (at 8:11 on the power play) and Skylar Pacheco (at 11:55). The Grizzlies would halve the lead before the break, as recently committed Arizona State Sun Devil Brett Gruber would notch his first of three on the night, scoring on the power play at 14:39.

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Cowichan’s Skylar Pacheco (9) would score a pair of goals and earn an assist for the Capitals Tuesday in their 6-5 win over Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In the second period, the Capitals would restore their two goal lead quickly, as Sean Harrison would beat Grizzlies starter Michael Stiliadis with a shot to the top corner just 1:31 into the frame.

The Grizzlies would answer right back however, as Gruber and line mate Dane Gibson would begin to take over the period, with Gruber scoring his second goal of the game, on the power play at 3:25, and then adding his third to tie things up 3-3 at 7:05. Gibson assisted on both goals.

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Victoria’s Brett Gruber (8) had a good night for the Grizzlies, scoring three of his team’s 5 goals in the 6-5 loss to Cowichan Valley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Almost three minutes later, the Grizzlies would strike again, thanks to another great setup by Gibson, this time slipping a pretty pass cross crease to Matthew Kennedy, who tucked the puck past the pad of Capitals goalie Matthew Zentner, giving the Grizz a 4-3 lead.

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Dane Gibson (16) had a three-point night Tuesday, earning assists on three of the Grizzlies five goals (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Despite the momentum swing, the Capitals would not go away and, as they usually do, made things tough on the Grizzlies, with Pacheco scoring his second goal of the night, on the power play at the 17:17 mark, to tie the game 4-4.

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Victoria’s Mitch Barker (right) gets the better of Cowichan’s Ryan Hogg (left) during this faceoff opportunity in the first period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The third period was as entertaining, hard-hitting affair with both teams having early chances. It would be the Grizzlies who would score the first goal of the period though, short-handed, when Shawn McBride would win a battle along the boards in his own end, flip the puck up to a streaking Jay Mackie, who raced in and beat Zentner with a nice shot to the corner. 5-4 Grizzlies with 9:21 left to play.

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Victoria’s Matthew Kennedy would score the Grizzlies fourth goal and assist on another in the 6-5 loss to the Capitals (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

With Head Coach Craig Didmon urging the Grizzlies to play strong defensively over the last half of the game, things were looking good for the win, but with their goalie pulled and just 35 seconds remaining in the game, the Capitals’ Darien Craighead would find the puck after a mad scramble and somehow dribble it past a sprawling Stiliadis to tie the game 5-5 and bring the announced crowd of 672 to their feet – save for the large contingent of Grizzlies fans that made the trek over the Malahat for the game.

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Victoria’s PJ Conlan (12) and Cowichan’s Ryan Burton (23) look for the puck following a faceoff during Tuesday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In overtime, the Capitals used that momentum to keep pressure on the Grizzlies and in another madcap scramble by the net, Stiliadis made the initial save and the puck lay just beside his pad where neither he nor any of his teammates saw it. Eventually, after what seemed like 30 seconds of the puck just lying there, it was poked out to the slot by Cowichan’s Kehoe, where Lepage slapped it into a largely wide open net for the win.

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Cowichan’s Darian Craighead (8) would have a goal and two assists for the Capitals Tuesday, one of three Cowichan players who enjoyed three-point evenings (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The loss and the way it evolved, left a bit of a bad taste in Grizzlie’s Head Coach Craig Didmon’s mouth, “It was just an inconsistent effort on our part. I don’t think we had our full bench tonight. We had a lot of guys who had good minutes, but not too many guys who really gutted it out for the full 60 minutes.”

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Grizzlies Head Coach Craig Didmon encourages his players during a timeout Tuesday. “It was an inconsistent effort on our part…we gave them every opportunity to win the game and they took full advantage of that.” (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“We struggled early and when that happens, you have to get better as the game goes on,” added Didmon. “While we did that to some extent, we certainly gave them every opportunity to get two points tonight and they took full advantage of that.”

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Cowichan’s Carter Turnbull (16) streaks through the neutral zone under the watch of the Grizlies Jay Mackie (18)

The loss drops the Grizzlies record to 18-13-1-9 and with 46 points, they now sit two points back of Powell River for second place in the Island Division. The Capitals improve to 16-25-1-1 and they now sit eight points back of Alberni Valley for fourth in the south.

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Jay Mackie would score the Grizzlies fifth and go-ahead goal on a nice short-handed effort in the third period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Grizzlies now hit the road this weekend for a pair of games, visiting the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday night and then making the long trip to Prince George to face the Spruce Kings on Saturday the 17th.

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Cowichan’s Julien Lepage (21) looks to beat the Grizzlies Cole Pickup (14) to the puck during Tuesday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: With his hat-trick, Brett Gruber was named first-star of the game. Dane Gibson, with three assists, was named third star. The Grizzlies now have 9 overtime losses, the most in the BCHL. Newcomer Thomas Gobeil, acquired at the trade deadline by the Grizzlies from the Capitals was not in the line-up Tuesday thanks to a clause in the trade agreement whereby the Capitals requested he not play for the Grizzlies against them in this game. Also missing from the Grizzlies line up were Ayden MacDonald (upper body) and Sean Cleary (lower body) who were out with injuries. Goaltender Chris Smith (Westshore Wolves) and forward Tyler Welsh (Campbell River Storm) were called up as AP’s.

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