Bus Ride Home a Happy One, Grizzlies Double-Up Prince George

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

January 18, 2015, Prince George, BC (ISN) – Prince George is an awfully long way to go to play 60 minutes of hockey. It can seem an even longer way back should you happen to lose that game. Fortunately for the Victoria Grizzlies, the 14 hours or so of travel back to Victoria Saturday night and Sunday morning was an enjoyable one, as they doubled up the Spruce Kings 6-3 on Saturday night in BCHL action at the Coliseum in Prince George.

Prince George’s Brogan O’Brien (21) tries to evade the dual forecheck of the Grizzlies PJ Conlon (12) and Cole Pickup (14) during Saturday’s 6-3 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Coming on the heels of two losses, including a 4-2 loss in Chilliwack on Friday, in which the Grizzlies turned third period leads into agonizing losses, Saturday’s win was crucial for the Grizzlies, as this time it was the Grizzlies who took it to a team in the third period, scoring three times to put what was a close game away. It was also just their third win in their last ten games and coming on the heels of a Powell River loss, vaulted the Grizzlies into second place in the Island Division.

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Victoria forward Jay Mackie (18) knocks the puck off th stick of Prince George’s Michael Buonincontri (11) during first period action Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Leading the way for the Grizzlies, as he seems to be doing in many games this season, was leading goal scorer Brett Gruber, who notched his 27th and 28th goals of the season, both of which were highlight worthy and both of which came at a key point in the game. His first goal, at 6:44 of the second gave the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead at that time and his second, just 25 seconds into the third frame, increased the Grizzlies lead to 4-2 and seemed to really take the wind out of the Spruce Kings sails.

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Victoria’s Brett Gruber notched his 27th and 28th goals of the seaosn Saturday to lead the Grizzlies to a 6-3 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Prior to that, it was the Spruce Kings who seemed to be carrying the play. They opened the scoring very early, just 1:13 into the game, on a goal from Jeremiah Luedtke and while Dane Gibson replied at 7:59 with his 19th of the season, Prince George’s Cole McCaskill would get that right back at 9:07 and the Spruce Kings took that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

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Victoria’s Dane Gibson (16) continued his stellar play with a goal and three assists Saturday. He now sits third in the BCHL scoring race (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Grizzlies would regroup at the break and 5:28 into the second, newcomer Thomas Gobeil would notch his first as a Grizzlie to tie the game 2-2. Gobeil, acquired at the trade deadline from the Cowichan Capitals, picked the puck up on the wing and made a nice cross crease move and then waited patiently for Spruce Kings goalie Jesse Jenks to make his move before firing the puck up and over the sprawling goaltender.

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Grizzlies forward Thomas Gobeil (25) would notch his first goal as a Grizzlie on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That seemed to spark the team as just over a minute later, Gruber struck for his first of the night to put the Grizzlies up 3-2.

Victoria would continue their dominance in the third. Following Gruber’s second goal 25 seconds into the frame, Meirs Moore would strike from the point at 3:37 and then Zach Dixon would follow suit at 4:01 to make the score 6-2.

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Prince George defenceman Alex Stoley (4) takes the puck away from a sprawling PJ Conlon during Saturday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That would spell the end of the night for Spruce Kings goalie Jenks. The Duncan native, who knows many of the players on the Grizzlies squad through his days in minor hockey, was keen to get the win against his pals, and as can be expected, was visibly upset when leaving the game, trashing his stick in the hallway next to the Spruce Kings bench.

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Victoria defenceman Cody Van Lierop (23) leads a charge through centre ice during the second period on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

While the goalie change would stem the Grizzlies’ tide – Alex Brooks-Potts would come in to finish the game, stopping all six of the Grizzlies shots he faced – it would not be enough and even though the Spruce King’s Cole Todd would score at 13:46 to make it 6-3, the game would wind down with the victory clearly in the Grizzlies favour.

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Spruce King forward Brogan O’Brien (21) skates the puck away from the pressure of Grizzlies forward Cole Pickup (14) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Both Gruber, with two goals and an assist, and Gibson, with a goal and two assists, had three-point evenings for the Grizzlies, as did line mate Matt Kennedy who had three helpers. Those points were important for the players as they make their way up the BCHL scoring leaderboard. Gibson, with 60 points is now third in league scoring, while Gruber, with 50, sits in eighth. Michael Stiliadis was once again in the nets for the Grizzlies and he would stop 18 of 21 shots for the win.

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Grizzlies Captain Shawn McBride (17) controls the puck away from the reach of the Spruce King’s Braiden Epp (26)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On the bus ride home, the Grizzlies basked in the glory of their win by enjoying a rousing rendition of “Rookie Idol” where all the rookies on the team and even colour announcer Clay Cochrane entertained the crowd with their best karaoke versions of today’s top hits. It was a great way to kill some of the 14 hours on the long bus ride home. As to the winner? Well, while rookie Spencer Hunter was named the winner, let’s just say all the players who sang should stick to hockey for now.

Game Notes: Goaltender Sean Cleary and forward Garrett Forster did not make the trip due to injuries. Tomba Huddlestan was a healthy scratch both Friday and Saturday nights. Special thanks to bus driver Jason and his assistant Monty from Wilson’s who got us to Price George and back in some not so great conditions, fog, snow, wind, rain. Next up for the Grizzlies is another road trip, this time only to Port Alberni on Wednesday to face the Bulldogs in a 7:00 pm start.

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