The Victoria Grizzlies began a pivotal weekend set in Powell River on Friday night, entering the two-game set tied atop the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division with the home town Kings.
A roaring offensive start and another stellar effort from Matthew Galajda in goal was enough to give the Grizzlies a 5-2 win on Friday and at least a momentary division lead.
The Grizzlies (13-3-2-3, 31 points) returned to action for the first time since blanking Alberni Valley and Vernon on November 4 and 5 by finals of 4-0 and 3-0. Goaltender Matthew Galajda recorded a combined 42 saves for back-to-back shutouts.
Powell River (15-7-1, 31 points) meanwhile came in playing their best hockey all season as winners of seven of their past eight games.
The first two games between the two teams have resulted in a victory for each side; Victoria’s in regulation, 2-1 in the season opener at the Q Centre on September 9, the Kings win coming in double overtime, 3-2, on October 1 in Powell River.
Victoria’s Cole Pickup served the first game of a four-game suspension received as a result of a blow to the head major in the Grizzlies win over the Vernon Vipers last Saturday.
Despite playing without their leading scorer, the Grizzlies took play to the home side Kings in the early moments and were rewarded with a two-goal lead with just five minutes gone.
Cam Thompson opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season and was followed less than two minutes later by defenseman Dreyson Pears who recorded his first career BCHL goal in his second season with the Grizzlies (69 games).
The Grizzlies continued to impose their will, shocking the Powell River fans and chasing Kings netminder Mitch Adamyk when a powerplay goal by Tim Friedmann made it 3-0 for Victoria.
Adamyk was under siege, facing nine shots in just over seven minutes of play before being lifted in favour of Brian Wilson.
The goaltending change seemingly served to wake up the Kings skaters who were able to stabilize the rest of the period and began to push back near the end of the period, thanks in part to a five-on-three powerplay.
Despite pressure that resulted in the once-lopsided shot count levelling off to a 14-13 Victoria edge, Galajda stood tall in the Grizzlies net, keeping Powell River off the board through one period.
Midway through a free flowing second period, Pears and Ben Berard fought, resulting in game misconducts for both players. Pears was assessed the additional instigator penalty.
Just eleven seconds into the Kings man advantage, their fourth of the game, Keyvan Mokhtari’s 10th goal of the season made it 4-0 Victoria. The goal was the Grizzlies’ ninth shorthanded strike of the season as a team.
Both goaltenders, Galajda and Wilson, began to steal the show in the middle frame with both offenses clicking on all cylanders with shots and chances aplenty at both ends. Through 40 minutes, the Kings led on the shot clock 36-26.
Powell River would break the shutout in the late stages of the second period thanks to Jonny Evans’ 14th goal of the year to cut the Grizzlies lead to 4-1. The goal broke the shutout streak of Grizzlies goalie Matthew Galajda at 181 minutes and 37 seconds, having not allowed a goal since the second period on October 30 against the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The Kings continued to apply pressure throughout the third period but Galajda remained up to the task. Penalty killing was a major factor for the Grizzlies throughout the game, negating another two-man disadvantage in the third and holding Powell River 0-7 on the powerplay overall.
The penalty-filled affair saw the Grizzlies on a five-on-three advantage late in the game, finishing 1-6 in the game.
Powell River drew to within a pair late when Ian Ross made it 4-2, blasting his second goal of the season with less than two minutes remaining.
That is as close as they would come, as Tyler Welsh would burry an empty netter, his 12th goal of the season for Victoria in the final seconds to arrive at the 5-2 final
Matthew Galajda made 44 saves in the victory as the Grizzlies were outshot 46-39 by Powell River.
Kings goaltender Brian Wilson made 28 saves on 29 shots after coming on in relief of Mitch Adamyk in the first period.
Seven different skaters scored the seven goals in the game while Grizzlies defenseman Brett Stirling led all point-getters with his two assists.
With the win the Grizzlies (14-3-2-3, 33 points) take a two-point lead over Powell River for first place in the BCHL’s Island Division.
The Kings have a chance to pull back even at 5:00pm on Saturday, when the two teams play the rematch at the Hap Parker Arena.