The Victoria Grizzlies and Cowichan Valley Capitals squared off in a battle for first place in the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division on Friday night at the Q Centre in Victoria.
The Capitals looked like they were going to make quick work of the Grizzlies early on but a furious third period and a goal by Cole Pickup with 12 seconds remaining in regulation brought Victoria even before Jake Stevens delivered the winner in double overtime to complete the comeback and give the Grizzlies a 4-3 win.
The Grizzlies entered the game with 14 points (5-1-2-2-1), just one point up on Cowichan Valley (6-2-1-0-0) who came in winners of their last two games.
A tentative pace from both teams in the opening minutes began to open up in the middle of the first period and it wasn’t long before the visitors found the game’s first goal.
With their first sustained pressure of the game, Cowichan Valley took a 1-0 lead when Michael Montambault deposited his third goal of the season on just the Capitals second shot, 8:36 into the opening period.
After killing off a penalty, the visitors added to their lead with a power play goal when Max Newton snapped his team-leading sixth goal of the season past Grizzlies goaltender Matthew Galajda with 6:20 remaining in the first to take a two-goal lead. Cowichan Valley was one for three with the man advantage in the opening frame.
George Sennott put the Capitals firmly in the driver’s seat up 3-0 entering the intermission, cashing in his third goal of the season on a two-man advantage with one second remaining in the first period.
Opportunities kept coming for the Capitals as second period got underway. Just under five minutes into the period and moments after the Grizzlies third power play had expired, Justin Perron was awarded a penalty shot after being sprung on a breakaway. Galajda turned the penalty shot away, keeping the score 3-0 Cowichan Valley.
Victoria began to climb back into the game as the second period wore on and finally solved Capitals netminder Lane Michasiw when Lucas Clark tipped home his first goal of the season on a nifty feed from Cameron Thompson to get the Grizzlies on the board, down 3-1 midway through the game.
Cowichan Valley narrowly missed restoring their three-goal lead when Ayden MacDonald misfired on a breakaway chance with five minutes remaining in the second.
The Grizzlies were unable to pull closer on two late power play opportunities in the period, including a furious goalmouth scramble as time expired. After being outshot 10-7 in the first, the Grizzlies turned the tables with a 12-7 edge in shots in the second period.
The home team came out of the locker room with great energy to begin the third, applying strong pressure and out shooting Cowichan Valley 7-1 in the opening seven minutes of the final stanza, but Michasiw stood tall in the Capitals net, keeping his team ahead by two.
The Grizzlies drew to within a goal with just over 11 minutes remaining when Tyler Welsh potted his fourth goal of the year on Victoria’s seventh power play of the game to bring the score to 3-2.
Victoria continued to apply pressure for the entire third period, directing 21 shots at the Capitals net in the frame as they desperately looked to find the equalizer.
The visitors were 12 seconds away from walking away with the victory but the Grizzlies broke through when the BCHL’s second-leading scorer Cole Pickup buried his 8th goal of the season to send the game to overtime with first place in the BCHL’s Island Division on the line.
Scoring chances were abundant for both sides throughout five minutes of four-on-four overtime but could not determine a winner so a three-on-three session was needed.
As back and forth action continued, Jake Stevens ripped home the game-winner 3:23 into double overtime, his third goal of the season to complete the comeback and give the Grizzlies a 4-3 win.
With the win, the Grizzlies stay atop the Island Division and the overall standings in the BCHL with 16 points while the Capitals pick up a single point to improve to 14 points on the season.
Former National Hockey League star Reggie Leach was in attendance and recognized during the pregame ceremonial puck drop.
Leach, a veteran of 14 NHL seasons (1970-83) who accumulated 381 career goals in 934 games with four teams, most notably eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, was the keynote speaker at the Grizzlies Inaugural Gala Dinner & Fundraiser at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort and Spa on Thursday.
The Grizzlies are back in action at the Q Centre on Sunday, October 9 when they host the Chilliwack Chiefs at 2:00pm. The Grizzlies are asking that fans bring non-perishable food items and/or monetary donations to help support our Island food banks.