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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

February 4, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Penticton Vees are the top team in the BC Hockey League (BCHL) for good reason. Unfortunately, the Victoria Grizzlies learned that the hard way on Thursday night, as they held a 5-1 lead late in the second period and then watched the Vees score six unanswered goals, five of those coming in the third period, to steal away with a 7-5 win over the Grizzlies in BCHL action at The Q Centre in Victoria.

Penticton’s Scott Conway avoids a hook from Victoria’s Cole Pickup as he head toward the Grizzlies net for a shot (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win put a huge damper on a “throwback Thursday” night that saw the Grizzlies don the old school jerseys of the Victoria Salsa, the name of the city’s Junior A team before being re-named Grizzlies in 2006.

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Jared Virtanen and the rest of the Grizzlies donned throwback Victoria Salsa jerseys for their game with Penticton on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It must have been something with those jerseys, or perhaps a little bit of jalapeño sauce added to the Grizzlies pre-game meal, but it was the Grizzlies early on that looked like the top team in the BCHL, out-hustling the Vees to many pucks and generating a few good scoring chances in the first couple of minutes.

However it would be the Vees who would strike first, when Dixon Bowen notched his sixth of the season, beating Grizzlies starter Matthew Galajda just 2:47 into the game.

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The Grizzlies Brayden Gelsinger  would have a solid night Thursday, with two goals, sparking the Grizzlies to a two-period 5-3 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That did not seem to faze the jalapeño inspired and red-jerseyed “Salsa”, as before the period was out, Brayden Gelsinger, with a nice shot and Braedan Cross, stuffing in a goal-mouth scramble, would both beat the league’s number one goaltender, Anthony Brodeur (son of Martin), to give the Grizzlies a 2-1 lead heading into the second.

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Victoria’s PJ Conlon (left) tries to get a shot away under pressure from the Vees Scott Conway during the first period Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In that second period, after an evenly played first half, the Grizzlies began to turn up the heat on the league leaders. Gelsinger would get his second of the game, taking advantage of a bad clearing pass by the Vees Dante Fabbro and beating Brodeur at the 15:56 mark to make it 3-1.

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Penticton’s Easton Brodzinski (20) looks to put the moves on Victoria defenceman Kevin Massy (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Just 44 seconds later, Kevin Massy would intercept a pass, make a beautiful toe-drag move around a Vees defender and feed Cole Pickup who scored his 16th of the season to make it 4-1. A minute later, Alex Peck would then stuff in his fifth of the year to make it 5-1 and chase Brodeur out of the net, much to the delight of the 1,100 or so in attendance.

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The Vees Demico Hannoun would have a goal and an assist in the Vees 7-5 win over the Grizzlies (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Cue the Penticton comeback. Late in period two, a minor skirmish in the corner resulted in a penalty to the Grizzlies Drayson Pears for elbowing and just 22 seconds later, while on the ensuing power-play, the Vees Demico Hannoun would blast a one-timer past Galajda to give the Vees some hope heading into the final frame down 5-2.

The Grizzles would then get a huge opportunity to put the nail in the Vees coffin to start the third, as they began the period with an extended two-man advantage thanks to a pair of undisciplined penalties by the Vees late in the second.

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Penticton’s Owen Sillinger is hauled down on this play by Victoria’s Brayden Gelsinger (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

However it would be the Vees who would turn the tables, as Luke Voltin would step out of the box at the end of the first Vees penalty and finish a two-on-one, short-handed feed from Owen Sillinger to cut the lead to 5-3 Grizzlies.

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Victoria’s Nick Guiney carries the puck through the neutral zone during Thursday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That goal would wake the sleeping giant, as the Vees would kill off the second Grizzlies penalty and then score three goals within a four minute span to take the lead. Bowen would start the deluge at the 7:45 mark, with his second of the game to make it 5-4 and less than two minutes later, Sillinger would score to tie it up 5-5, silencing the crowd. Then less than two minutes after that, at 11:06, Mitchell Brooks scored to give the Vees the lead and send the Grizzlies Galajda to the bench in favour of Mitchell Benson.

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Victoria’s Chuck Bennis (left) and Penticton’s Darius Davidson (right) battle for position in front of Victoria goaltender Matthew Galajda (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It was too little too late however and when Scott Conway scored an empty net goal – his 50th goal of the season – on the Vees 25th shot of the period, the game was sealed and Penticton stole away with their league leading 42nd win of the season.

With the loss, the Grizzlies drop to 21-23-4-0 on the season and fail to put any distance between themselves and Port Alberni, leading the Bulldogs by just four points for the final playoff spot in the Island Division and setting up a huge game Friday night when the Grizzlies travel to Alberni for a critical match-up with the Bulldogs.

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Penticton’s Owen Sillinger curls out of the corner with the Grizzlies Kevin Massy hot in pursuit (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: Penticton’s Zach Driscoll gets the win in relief, stopping all seven Grizzlies shots that he faced. Mitchell Benson stopped all six shots that he faced in relief of Galajda. The Grizzlies will continue to wear the red Salsa jerseys for their remaining home games in February.