The Victoria Grizzlies had a measuring stick matchup in the British Columbia Hockey League’s marquee matchup on Saturday as they squared off with the Wenatchee Wild.
Wenatchee, the BCHL’s second-best team and highest scoring offense clamped down defensively on the Grizzlies and handed Victoria a 3-1 loss at home, their first regulation loss in seven games.
The Grizzlies (Now 21-6-3-3, 48 points) came into Saturday’s clash 5-0-1 in their past six games including 13 goals scored in their previous two games, both wins. They returned home on Saturday having collected seven points (3-0-1) on a road trip through the Interior Division with a stop in Nanaimo.
Victoria has utilized strong defence and goaltending this season, entering with the second-fewest goals against in the BCHL with 73 (2.3 goals per game).
Wenatchee (Now 25-5-2, 52 points) entered the night second overall in the BCHL and leading the Interior Division by five points ahead of the Chilliwack Chiefs. A contrast in style to Victoria; the Wild are the highest scoring team in the league, coming in with 167 goals on the season for an average of 5.4 goals per game.
Wenatchee posses the BCHL’s top goal differential, outscoring opponents by 87 goals so far this season.
Goaltender Tony Rehm made his third consecutive start for the Grizzlies with Matthew Galajda being named to the Canada West roster for the World Junior A Challenge.
Wenatchee opened the scoring just over eight minutes in when AJ Vanderbeck beat Rehm for his 20th goal of the season.
Victoria equalized just before the 13-minute mark of the opening period when Cole Pickup capitalized on a rush with fired his 13th goal of the season past Wild netminder Anthony Yamnitsky to tie the game at one apiece.
The Grizzlies accumulated 11 penalty minutes in the first period, killing off four Wenatchee powerplays. Additionally, Nick Guiney and Lucas Clark were both assessed game misconducts in the opening period.
Rehm kept the game tied throughout the second period making multiple difficult saves on 14 Wenatchee shots in the period as the Wild outshot Victoria 27-18 in a one-all tie through 40 minutes
The Grizzlies missed a chance to take the lead when they could not capitalize on a five-on-three powerplay for nearly two minutes late in the period.
Victoria began the third period shorthanded with Keyvan Mokhtari sent to penalty box for roughing with three seconds remaining in the second.
It took just over a minute for the Wild to find the back of the net with their sixth man advantage of the game on Brian Williams’ 11th goal of the season to reclaim the lead, 2-1 early in the third.
With less than eight minutes remaining, Wenatchee found the insurance marker thanks to a shorthanded goal from Matthew Baker, his 15th of the season to put the road team up by two.
After the goal, the Grizzlies were assessed an unsportsmanlike minor after head coach Craig Didmon was ejected.
The remainder of the period passed uneventfully as Wenatchee skated away with the 3-1 victory.
The Wild finished with a 43-24 edge in shots on goal while going 1-7 on the powerplay and holding Victoria 0-4 with the man advantage.
The game featured four different goal scorers and ten players picking up a single point.
With his first period goal, Cole Pickup extended his point-scoring streak to six games (2 G, 7 A).
After the loss, Victoria remains five points ahead of the Powell River Kings in the Island Division
The Grizzlies now turn their attention to Sunday afternoon when they host the Nanaimo Clippers. The 2:00pm start is the Grizzlies’ annual Teddy Bear Toss. All fans are encouraged to bring a new or unused teddy bear to the game, wrapped in a plastic bag, to throw on the ice after the Grizzlies first goal.