On a stormy Friday night outside, action between the Victoria Grizzlies and Cowichan Valley Capitals heated up the Q Centre as the two British Columbia Hockey League rivals met in the first end of a weekend home-and-home set.
It was the second straight Friday night matchup between the two teams after the Grizzlies erased an early three-goal deficit to take a 4-3 double overtime win over the Capitals one week ago.
First place was again on the line on Friday evening with the Grizzlies (6-2-2-2-2) and Capitals (7-3-2-0-0) entering the game tied for first place in the BCHL’s Island Division with 16 points.
An offensive onslaught by the Grizzlies highlighted by three-goal periods in the first and third led to a 6-3 win for Victoria, giving them sole possession of first place in the Island Division.
The Grizzlies received a boost for this game as leading scorer Cole Pickup (whose 18 points (8-10-18) returned to the lineup after missing one game to sign his national letter of intent for 2017 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (NCAA Div. 1).
It was an inauspicious start for the home side with Cowichan Valley starting strong and opening the scoring for the second straight meeting when Simon Chen drove home his first goal of the season on a breakaway three minutes into the game to give the Capitals the early lead.
Unlike the meeting a week ago, Victoria had a strong and immediate response as the quick goal seemingly woke a sleeping bear. The Grizzlies had a strong next shift after the opening goal capped by Jamie Rome’s fourth of the season tied the game at one just 28 seconds after falling behind.
End-to-end action dominated much of the first period with multiple odd-man rushes and premium scoring chances on both sides and the one of those would put the Grizzlies ahead 2-1 midway through the first period on Jamie Rome’s second goal of the period.
Victoria continued pouring it on and were rewarded again as Cory Hatcher fired his fifth goal of the season to put the Grizzlies ahead 3-1 with an 11-5 edge in shots just over twelve minutes into the game.
The Grizzlies fired 14 shots at Capitals goaltender Adam Marcoux in the first frame with Cowichan Valley directing nine in the direction of Victoria netminder Matthew Galajda.
Not lost in the excitement of the offensively flurry was the importance of two key penalty kills by the Grizzlies in the first stanza, one in the opening moments and another in the closing minutes, to maintain their 3-1 lead into the break.
After they killed off Victoria’s first powerplay early in the second period, the Capitals would pull back to within one on a goal from Ryan Hogg, his second of the year to bring the score to 3-2.
Cowichan Valley continued to dig in and push for the equalizer but Galajda stood tall to keep the Grizzlies in front.
After a first period full of scoring, both sides had ample missed opportunities in the second.
Victoria continued to give opportunities to the BCHL’s top-ranked powerplay but the Capitals, who entered the night converting at a rate of 35.9% with the man advantage, were 0-5 through two periods.
On the other side, Cowichan Valley goaltender Adam Marcoux, after allowing three goals in the first, had a tremendous middle period making 18 saves to keep the Capitals within a goal.
After not being rewarded for an offensive barrage in the second period, the Grizzlies were rewarded twice in the blink of an eye early in the third to take control.
Nick Guiney’s first of the season came on the powerplay 5:13 into the final frame, followed 29 seconds later by Lucas Clark’s second of the year to give Victoria a three-goal bulge.
Nine minutes into the final period, a broken play led to an opportunity for Cowichan Valley’s Max Newton who buried his eighth goal of the season to make the score 5-3 in favour of Victoria.
The hair-raising pace prevalent in the third period and throughout much of the game led to Victoria’s Cam Thompson being sprung on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot after he was impeded on the break.
Already with three assists on the evening, Thompson made no mistake on the penalty shot, snapping home his second goal of the season, effectively salting it away for the Grizzlies who now led, 6-3 in the final five minutes, and that is how it would end.
The Grizzlies had Cowichan Valley’s net under siege most of the night, outshooting the Capitals 43-27. Victoria’s Jamie Rome led all skaters with his two goals and Cam Thompson had a game-high four points.
The win is the Grizzlies seventh of the season including their fifth on home ice, and is their third win in four meetings against Cowichan Valley. Victoria improves to 7-2-2-2-2, first place in the BCHL’s Island Division with 18 points, two points up on Cowichan Valley.
The return engagement of the home-and-home set faces off at 7:00pm on Saturday at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan, BC. The Grizzlies return home next Friday and Saturday when they take on the Langley Rivermen and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, both 7:00pm starts at the Q Centre in Victoria.