This weekend could be looked upon as a challenge or an opportunity for the Victoria Grizzlies.
Based on Friday’s wire-to-wire 4-1 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, it could well be an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division.
Friday night began a busy weekend for the Grizzlies (14-4-2-3, 33 points) who will play three home games in three days at the Q Centre.
The Grizzlies hit the ice on Friday tied for first place in the BCHL’s Island Division with Powell River. The Kings and Grizzlies split a pair of games last weekend in Powell River, each by 5-2 scores.
Alberni Valley (6-14-3) sit in the cellar of the Island Division, their 15 points putting them ten points behind the fourth place Nanaimo Clippers.
Victoria has had their way with the Bulldogs so far this season, coming into Friday 4-0 in the season series with Alberni Valley picking up one point for a 5-4 overtime loss on September 10.
Early indications on Friday were that the Grizzlies dominance would continue in the fifth meeting of the season.
Victoria had chances aplenty in the first period and took advantage with a pair of timely goals to take a two-goal lead through 20 minutes. Playing their third game without leading point-getter Cole Pickup (suspension) and captain Cody Van Lierop (injury), the Grizzlies would need other people to step up once again, and that is just what they received.
Tyler Welsh opened the scoring just 2:14 into the game and struck again with less than two minutes remaining in the opening frame, doubling the Grizzlies lead with his second goal of the night and team-leading 14th of the season.
Keyvan Mokhtari and Nathan Looysen assisted on both goals moving each player into the top-five in team point scoring (17 each), as the Grizzlies received multi-point periods from three different players in the opening period.
The Grizzlies were sound in their own end in front of goaltender Tony Rehm, outshooting Alberni Valley 11-4 in the first period.
Alberni Valley worked their way back into the game in a stronger second period that went back and forth. Brody Claeys stopped all nine shots in the Bulldogs net in the middle stanza while their offence found some flow, firing eight at Rehm in the Victoria crease.
The Bulldogs cut the lead in half midway through the second period on an unassisted shorthanded goal from Cayden Kraus, his fourth tally of the year. The 2-1 Victoria lead would stand into the third period.
Victoria opened and closed periods well all game long. They struck for another goal early in the third when Lucas Clark registered his sixth of the season just 2:13 into the final frame, restoring the home team’s two-goal advantage.
Each goaltender stood tall the rest of the way before Cam Thompson potted an empty net goal, his fifth of the year, in the final seconds to finalize the 4-1 victory.
The final shot count favoured the Grizzlies, 28-21. Both powerplay units were held scoreless, the Bulldogs in five opportunities and Victoria with three.
Tyler Welsh’s two first period goals led all goal-scorers. Keyvan Mokhtari and Nathan Looysen joined Welsh with a game-high two points each.
With the win, the Grizzlies (15-4-2-3, 35 points) took sole lead of first place in the BCHL’s Island Division if only for a moment as the Powell River Kings were leading the Trail Smoke Eaters, 2-1 at press time.
The Grizzlies are right back at it on Saturday at the Q Centre for another first place showdown with Powell River. The puck drops at 7:00pm.