The Victoria Grizzlies began a four-game road trip Friday night in Prince George
Tyler Welsh helped the Grizzlies build a two-goal lead entering the third period when Matthew Galajda took over as Victoria began their road swing on a winning note, defeating the Spruce Kings by a 4-1 final.
The Grizzlies (18-5-2-3, 41 points) began their trip with a two-point lead on the Powell River Kings for first place in the Island Division of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Prince George (14-11-1-2, 31 points) is holding down third place in the BCHL’s Mainland Division.
Victoria held a 1-0 lead through an evenly played first period thanks to the Tyler Welsh’s first goal of the night, beating Spruce Kings’ goaltender Tavin Grant with less than 20 seconds remaining in the period. Cole Pickup and Jake Stevens drew assists on the play.
Welsh struck again early in the second and expanded the Grizzlies lead to two by firing his second goal of the game and team leading 17th of the season past Grant with helpers from T.J. Freidmann and Drayson Pears.
Special teams were not a major factor in the opening 40 minutes but became one in the final frame. The Grizzlies were able to negate a double minor assessed to Cody Van Lierop as Matthew Galajda stood tall in goal for Victoria, withstanding furious pressure put on by the Spruce Kings.
Prince George finally solved Galajda on their fifth powerplay of the game thanks to Tyler Anderson’s ninth goal of the year to momentarily cut the Grizzlies lead to 2-1.
On the ensuing shift however, Cole Pickup walked in the Spruce Kings zone and wired his 12th goal of the season past Grant to restore the two-goal lead.
The shots were tied at 19 through two periods, but Prince George owned the third period territorially and on the shot clock, outshooting the Grizzlies 20-10 in the final frame as they put on a tremendous final push.
The Spruce Kings saved their best pitch for last, pulling netminder Grant with three minutes remaining but despite their best efforts, Galajda was one step ahead for Victoria, making 38 saves to backstop the win.
Jamie Rome put the game away with a powerplay goal in the game’s final moments, his seventh of the season to bring the score to a 4-1 final.
Tavin Grant stopped 25 of 29 shots in goal for the Spruce Kings who outshot the Grizzlies by a final count of 39-29.
Prince George was 1-5 on the powerplay while the Grizzlies were 1-3.
Victoria’s Tyler Welsh led all skaters with two goals and three points.
The win is the third straight for Victoria (19-5-2-3, 43 points) who remain alone atop the BCHL’s Island Division, two points ahead of the Powell River Kings.
The Grizzlies tour of the Mainland Division continues on Saturday with a visit to the Merritt Centennials.
Victoria’s next home game is Saturday, December 10 at 7:00pm when the Wenatchee Wild visit the Q Centre. It will be one of the season’s marquee matchups, with Wenatchee ranked #15 in last week’s CJHL rankings.