The Victoria Grizzlies used a balanced attack including goals from five different players in picking up a crucial win over the Merritt Centennials on Saturday night.
Timothy Friedmann lead the way with a goal and two assists, and Keyvan Mokhtari registered three helpers in carrying the Grizzlies to a 5-4 win at the Q Centre.
The Grizzlies (Now 34-11-3-4, 75 points) have now won seven of their past eight games and own a four-point lead over the Powell River Kings for the lead in the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division with just six games remaining in the regular season.
Merritt (Now 20-22-8-2, 50 points) has lost back-to-back games and remain fifth in the Interior Division.
Victoria carried a 1-0 lead through the first period, thanks to a late goal from Timothy Friedmann, his 14th goal of the season.
The game opened up in the second period, which featured four goals, two for each team before the game had reached its midway point, and six total in the frame, resulting in a 4-3 Victoria lead after 40 minutes.
Grizzlies scoring included Jamie Rome’s 20th goal of the year, a powerplay marker to re-establish a 2-1 lead and then Jake Steven’s 8th to give Victoria their third lead of the game at 3-2.
The teams then traded goals late in the period. Drayson Pears’ fifth of the year put the Grizzlies ahead 4-2 before Zach Risteau answered with his team-leading 25th of the season for Merritt, bringing the lead back to one entering the third period.
Just 26 seconds into the final period, the Grizzlies reclaimed their two-goal lead when Nick Guiney counted his 14th of the year to put Victoria up, 5-3.
Again, the Centennials answered back, again drawing within a goal just before the seven-minute mark of the third on Zachary Bleuler’s sixth goal of the season on the powerplay.
That is as close as the Centennials would come as the Grizzlies hung on for the 5-4 victory.
Merritt kept themselves close in this one thanks to their work on the powerplay, finishing 3-7 with the man-advantage. The Grizzlies were 1-6.
Matthew Galajda made 32 saves on 36 shots in the win for Victoria while Centennials netminder Colten Lancaster surrendered five goals on 36 shots on the losing end.
The Grizzlies have secured a berth in the BCHL playoffs. They own a four-point lead over Powell River, who was idle on Saturday, for the Island Division title. Victoria has six games remaining on their regular season schedule while the Kings only have four games remaining.
The Grizzlies host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Sunday at 2:00pm at the Q Centre. They then head out on the road for five games before returning to Victoria for the final game of the regular season on Saturday, February 25 as they entertain the Nanaimo Clippers.