The Victoria Grizzlies hit the ice for a divisional tilt against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday night at the Q Centre looking to sweep both ends of their two-game weekend homestand. After facing an early deficit, the Grizzlies’ bite proved greater than the Bulldogs’ bark in a 6-2 final.
Victoria (8-2-2-3-2) entered play on Friday in a tie with the Cowichan Valley Capitals for first place in the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division with 21 points. Alberni Valley meanwhile, entered the night fifth in the Island Division with 10 points (4-9-2-0-1).
The Grizzlies entered the third meeting of the season between the two teams 2-0 against Alberni Valley so far this season and were looking for their seventh home win of the season.
Despite the standings, it was the underdog Bulldogs who came out on fire and stunned the Grizzlies and the home fans with two quick goals in the first 65 seconds of the game.
Cayden Kraus opened the scoring with his third goal of the season 41 seconds into the game and off the ensuing faceoff, Ryan Steele walked in and blasted his fifth of the year to give Alberni Valley a very early 2-0 lead just 1:05 into the game.
The early tallies were a rarity against Victoria goaltender Matthew Galajda who has been a major strength for the Grizzlies this season and was tremendous on Friday, making 37 saves in a 4-2 win over Langley.
Though they found themselves under siege in the first seven minutes, a powerplay helped tilt the ice back in favour of the Grizzlies. Shortly after the man advantage expired, Nick Guiney fired his third goal of the season at 8:43 to get Victoria on the board. In similar fashion to the Bulldogs quick start, Sage Englund found the equalizer for the Grizzlies with his second of the year just a minute and 13 seconds later, all but erasing the benefits of the Bulldogs strong start.
The 2-2 tie would hold through the first period with both teams going 0-2 on the powerplay.
After a wild first period, the Grizzlies imposed their will in the second and took control of the game.
Keyvan Mokhtari gave the Grizzlies their first lead with two quick goals early in the period. His fifth of the season 4:26 in made it 3-2, and his sixth, coming moments later on the powerplay put Victoria up a pair.
The Grizzlies kept coming in waves in the second and extended their lead to 5-2 on Lucas Clark’s fourth of the season necessitating a Bulldogs timeout as they were in danger of losing touch with the game not yet at the midway point.
Shots on goal were tied at nine after a period but the Grizzlies were relentless in the second, outshooting Port Alberni 23-10.
Staked to a three-goal lead, Victoria clamped down in the third period limiting any Bulldogs opportunities and Keyvan Mokhtari converted a late shorthanded empty-net goal to complete his hat-trick and finalize Victoria’s 6-2 win.
Alberni Valley led 8-3 on the shot clock in the game’s opening minutes, but the Grizzlies put on suffocating pressure for much of the game’s final 50 minutes, finishing with a 43-27 edge in shots.
Carson Schamerhorn allowed five goals on 42 shots for Alberni Valley while Matthew Galajda shook off the early difficulties, turning aside 25 of 27.
Strong Grizzlies penalty killing prevented Alberni Valley from getting back into the game as the Bulldogs went 0-8 in the game with the extra man. Victoria’s powerplay was a modest 1-7.
Mokhtari led all goal scorers. He and teammate Jake Stevens were the leading point-getters with three as the Grizzlies defenseman collected three assists.
With the win, Victoria remains atop the BCHL’s Island Division with 23 points (9-2-2-3-2).
The Grizzlies now hit the road for their next three games beginning next Friday, October 28 in Chilliwack against the Chiefs. Victoria’s next home game takes place Friday, November 4 when Alberni Valley returns to the Q Centre. The Vernon Vipers visit the Grizzlies the following night, November 5. Both games begin at 7:00pm.