The Victoria Grizzlies returned from their Christmas break and played their final game of 2016 on Friday night as they paid a visit to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The usually high powered offence of the Grizzlies was quieted somewhat on this night, relying upon goaltender Matthew Galajda to make 32 saves on 33 shots in a 3-1 victory.
With the win, the Grizzlies (Now 24-6-3-4, 55 points) maintain a commanding 10-point lead in the Island Division of the British Columbia Hockey League. A 6-1-1-1 record in December has helped them pull to within striking distance of the league-leading Penticton Vees (59 points) and the Wenatchee Wild (58 points) who were both still in action at press time.
Cowichan Valley (Now 19-15-2-2, 42 points) is battling for second place in the Island Division, now three points behind the Powell River Kings after Friday’s loss.
A fast paced first period saw both goaltenders tested early as each team would record 11 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.
The netminders, Matthew Galajda for the Grizzlies and Lane Michasiw for Cowichan Valley, held serve until late in the frame when Tyler Welsh’s team-leading 18th goal of the season made it 1-0 Victoria after one.
The goal extended Welsh’s point-scoring streak to five games (3 G, 4 A, 7 points).
The only scoring in the second period came courtesy of Drayson Pears’ third goal of the year, staking Victoria to a 2-0 advantage through 40 minutes.
Cowichan Valley cut into the lead early in the third when Max Newton solved Galajda with his team-leading 19th goal of the year to draw the Capitals to within a goal less than five minutes into the final frame.
That is as close as they would get however as the Grizzlies would lock down the rest of the third period as Galajda would make 32 saves, facing 11 shots in each period in the 3-1 victory.
Cam Thompson would ice it with his 10th goal of the season with twelve seconds remaining.
Michasiw stopped 24 of 27 shots in the loss for Cowichan Valley.
Victoria was 0 for 2 on the powerplay while the Capitals went scoreless in five opportunities with the extra man.
Drayson Pears led all skaters with two points (1 G, 1 A) and with a first period assist, Cole Pickup extended his point-scoring streak to seven games (3 G, 8 A, 11 points).
The Grizzlies return to action on January 4 in Nanaimo in the second game of their five-game road swing.
Victoria’s next home game takes place on January 12 when the Nanaimo Clippers visit the Q Centre to begin a four game home stand for the Grizzlies.