Grizzlies Fight for Life, But Succumb to Kings in Double OT

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

March 10, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – They say that a wild animal is most dangerous when it feels trapped or cornered. Such was the case with the Victoria Grizzlies at The Q Centre on Tuesday night, as with their backs to the proverbial wall and trailing the Powell River Kings 4-1 midway through the third period of a must-win Game 6, they scratched and clawed their way to force overtime, but ultimately fell 5-4 in double-overtime on a goal from Colton Sandberg that clinched the BCHL playoff series for the Kings 4-2.

Powell River’s Colton Sandberg (third from left) and the rest of his team begin to celebrate his game-winning, double-overtime goal, while a stunned Jake Emilio (4) of the Grizzlies looks on.

Powell River will now move on to play the winner of the Nanamio Clippers and Alberni Valley Bulldogs series, which is now tied 3-3 thanks to the Bulldogs 4-3 win Tuesday, their third in a row over a Clippers team that held a 3-0 lead in the series.

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Powell River goaltender Brett Magnus would cover this early scoring attempt by the Grizzlies Dane Gibson

Sandberg’s goal, his first ever in the BCHL, put a damper on an incredible comeback by the Grizzlies, who midway through the third period, looked like they were well on their way to defeat.

Three first period goals from the King’s Jacob Pritchard (with a pair) and Jarid Lukosevicius, the latter two coming less than a minute apart, and another in the second from Austin Kamer, had given the Kings a commanding 4-1 lead, with the only bright spot for the Grizzlies being a first period powerplay goal from Kevin Massy, his second of these playoffs.

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Powell River’s JJ Coleshaw (18) and Victoria’s Brett Gruber (8) battle for a loose puck.

But then a miracle happened. At the 13:29 mark the Grizzlies Brett Gruber fired an innocent looking shot off the right wing that somehow found its way past a previously almost unbeatable Brett Magnus, the stalwart King’s goalie. Just 22 seconds later, Jake Emilio whistled a shot past a rattled Magnus and the crowd of almost 1,000 roared to their feet in anticipation of a complete comeback.

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Brett Gruber would ignite the Grizzlies third period comeback with a goal at 13:29 of the third that made the score 4-2.  Jake Emilio would score the third goal just seconds later.

The Grizzlies kept pressuring and with 1:41 left in the game, the crowd was in fact rewarded, as Massy took a great pass from Brett Gruber and blasted his second of the game past Magnus to tie the game 4-4 and force the game to overtime.

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Victoria’s Kevin Massy looks to the crowd, as he begins to celebrate his game-tying goal that came with 1:41 left in the third period.

In the first overtime, both teams had some incredible chances to score, but none better than the Grizzlies Thomas Gobeil, who broke in alone midway through the frame. Seeking his first goal of the series, Gobeil was stopped cold on a nice poke check by Magnus and the game continued.

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Grizzlies Captain Shawn McBride (17) battles for the puck with Powell River’s Nick Halagian (23) and Jeremy Leclerc (25)

Shortly after that, the King’s had their best chance in the first overtime when Lukosevicius would find himself in front all alone, but a sprawling Michael Stiliadis somehow managed to keep the puck out of the net.

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Victoria’s Nick Guiney (20) and Powell River’s Carmine Buono battle for position in front of the King’s net during third period action.

In the second overtime, after the King’s Kurt Keats almost ended it on a horrible Grizzlies turnover, the Grizzlies would get their next best chance to score when the Kings took a penalty for too many men on the ice at the 4:58 mark. Despite multiple attempts, including a near tip-in by a leaping Cole Pickup, the Grizzlies could not score, opening the door for the Kings.

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Victoria’s Cole Pickup (14) looks for a way around Powell River’s Kurt Keats (7) in the third period Tuesday.

Shortly after the King’s Nick Halagian almost ended it on a wrap-around attempt, the puck found its way back to the point where Sandberg blasted it past Stiliadis at the 10:21 mark of the second overtime, sending the Kings streaming on to the ice, past a number of stunned and dejected Grizzlies players. While a few Grizzlies tempers flared briefly as the Kings finished up their victory celebration, cooler heads prevailed and the teams engaged in the traditional series ending handshakes at centre ice, followed by the Grizzlies paying a final tribute to their die-hard fans.

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Powell River’s Liam Lawson (16) got away with a hold on this play on Victoria’s Thomas Gobeil (25)

2015 just was not meant to be for the Grizzlies. Almost one year to the date that they knocked the Kings out of the 2014 BCHL playoffs in Game 6 in Powell River, the Kings turned the tables on the Grizzlies, doing the same to the Grizzlies this year.

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Powell River goalie Brett Magnus makes a huge save on Victoria’s Thomas Gobeil on the breakaway in overtime number one Tuesday 

The Kings also did what neither team had been able to do so far in the first five games of the series and that was win two games in a row. This was been a bounce-back series for both teams for sure and after the Grizzlies were embarrassed by the Kings in Game 1 at home by a score of 7-2, they rebounded for a thrilling 2-1 overtime win in Game 2. In Powell River over the weekend, the Kings rebounded from that loss with a 5-2 win in Game 3, the Grizzlies held serve in Game 4 winning handily 6-1, while Powell River rebounded from that loss to win 5-1 Sunday and set up tonight’s Game 6.

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Victoria’s Cole Pickup would nearly tip this shot past King’s goaltender Brett Magnus during the second overtime Tuesday.

A big factor in the Kings series win was that their top scorers during the regular season, Pritchard and Lukosevicius, were also their leading scorers in the playoffs. That was definitely not the case for the Grizzlies, as leading scorer Dane Gibson, with 32 goals and 57 assists in the regular season, had just three assists in the playoffs, while Thomas Gobeil, a 25 goal scorer during the year was held pointless in the six games. While both players were reportedly battling illness and injury respectively, the Grizzlies needed them to produce to have a chance.

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Victoria’s die-hard fans continued to cheer last night even when the team was down 4-1 part way through the third period.

Another big difference was the goaltending. Putting it quite simply, Magnus was better than the Grizzlies Michael Stiliadis when he needed to be and the proof of that is in the numbers. On Tuesday, Magnus stopped 55 Grizzlies shots to boost his save percentage for the series to .925, with a goals against average of 2.60. He was the first star of Tuesday’s game, as well as in Game 3 in Powell River and the second star in Games 2 and 5. Stiliadis on the other hand, while he was outstanding in Games 2 and 4, he was anything but that at other times, finishing the series with a save percentage of .870 and a goals against of 3.52. Not numbers that are going to win a series and a no doubt disappointing end to the 20-year old’s Junior career.

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Victoria goaltender Michael Stiliadis keeps a wrap-around attempt by Powell River’s Nick Halagian out of the net during the second overtime period Tuesday.

The Grizzlies will now lick their wounds and begin the rebuild for next year. Gone will be 20-year olds Stiliadis, Gobeil, Gibson, Jake Emilio, Zach Dixon and Meirs Moore, as well as Matthew Kennedy who is headed to Arizona State to begin play this fall. With the returning core (assuming they all come back) and a fresh crop of new recruits that are already signed and that will no doubt emerge during this spring’s prospect camps, the Grizzlies will no doubt be right back in the thick of things in the Island Division next season.

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A devastated Jake Emilio (4) and Cole Pickup (14) remain on the ice following the Kings game winning goal in double overtime

Congratulations to both teams on an excellent series and good luck to Powell River moving on.

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