The Victoria Grizzlies tour of the British Columbia Hockey League’s Interior Division rolled in to Merritt on Saturday for a matchup with the Centennials.
The Grizzlies received a timely goal from Keyvan Mokhtari with time running out in the third and 34 saves from Matthew Galajda, but ultimately it wasn’t enough as they fell 3-2 in overtime.
The Grizzlies (19-5-2-3, 43 points) entered the night still with a two point lead in the BCHL’s Island Division after beginning their four-game road trip with a 4-1 win over the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday.
Merritt (11-12-5-1, 28 points) came in sitting fourth in the Interior Division.
The Grizzlies set the tone early, starting fast and finding the back of the net less than two minutes in when Jake Stevens buried his fourth goal of the season past Centennials goaltender Jacob Berger to give Victoria the early advantage.
Both net minders shone in the first period with Berger making 12 saves and Grizzlies goalie Matthew Galajda answering with 11 saves of his own to maintain his team’s 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.
Merritt responded in the latter stages of the second period when Zach Risteau was sprung on a breakaway and potted his team-leading 14th goal of the season behind Galajda to even the game at one apiece going to the third.
The Grizzlies manufactured a flurry of chances early in the third, aided by a powerplay chance just three seconds into the period but Berger stood tall in goal, keeping Merritt on level ground.
Midway through the period, Zach Zorn gave the Centennials the lead, beating Galajda with his fifth goal of the year to put the home side ahead 2-1 with just over ten minutes to play.
It was beginning to look like Merritt would be able to protect the lead to the finish line but with less than two minutes remaining, Keyvan Mokhtari came to the rescue for the Grizzlies, solving Berger for his 11th goal of the season to send the game to overtime tied at two.
It didn’t take long to find a resolution to this one. Just 27 seconds into overtime, Merritt defenseman Zach Metsa drove home his first goal of the season for the overtime winner.
Victoria outshot the Centennials 37-29 in a losing cause. Both teams finished the game 0-3 on the powerplay.
Stevens, Pickup and Friedmann all extended their personal point-scoring streaks of three games or more for the Grizzlies (19-5-3-3, 44 points) who pick up one point for the overtime loss and extend their division lead to three points over Powell River.
The Grizzlies play their third game in less than three days when they pay a visit to the Coquitlam Express on Sunday. Puck drop is at 2:00pm.
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.