The Victoria Grizzlies used a big first period to come away with their third straight victory in Vernon on Friday night, putting them on the cusp of clinching the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division.
On the strength of three first period goals, the Grizzlies skated past the Vipers by a 3-1 final on Friday.
The Grizzlies (Now 36-11-3-4, 79 points) now possess an eight-point lead over the Powell River Kings in the Island Division.
The Kings can now do no better than tie Victoria in the regular season standings. The Grizzlies lost the season series to Powell River (3-4-1) meaning that Victoria needs one more point in their remaining four games to clinch the division title.
Salmon Arm (Now 28-18-5-4, 65 points) is locked into second spot in the BCHL’s interior division, which has been clinched by the Penticton Vees.
The Grizzlies were outshot 14-8 in the first period but took advantage of opportunistic offence, surging ahead to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Victoria found themselves ahead by two less than five minutes in thanks to Timothy Friedmann’s 15th goal of the season and Cody Van Lierop’s fourth in a span of 61 seconds.
Keyvan Mokhtari extended the lead in the latter stages of the period, converting his 19th of the year with less than two minutes remaining in the frame.
The second period passed scoreless with the Grizzlies riding the netminding of Matthew Galajda who maintained his team’s three-goal lead making 29 saves through two periods.
The Vipers broke Galajda’s shutout bid midway through the third period on Ryan Brushett’s ninth goal of the season on the powerplay to get on the board at 3-1. A second powerplay marker, Brett Stapley’s 13th goal of the year, with less than four minutes left on the clock brought Vernon back to within a goal.
Vernon finished 2-4 on the powerplay while the Grizzlies were 0-2.
The Grizzlies were able to hold off the comeback attempt, sealing the victory with an empty net goal from Nathan Looysen, his 19th tally of the season to finalize the 4-2 victory.
Galajda made 35 saves on 37 shots in the win for Victoria while Vernon netminder Ty Tyler allowed three goals on 25 shots in the loss.
Mokhtari lead the Grizzlies with two points (1 G, 1 A) and now has seven points (3 G, 4 A) on his current three-game point-scoring streak.
Michael Ufberg was Vernon’s leading scorer, drawing assists on both Vipers goals.
The Grizzlies visit the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday night and then head to Penticton on Sunday afternoon as they play three games in as many days. The Grizzlies return home for the final game of the regular season on Saturday, February 25 when the Nanaimo Clippers visit the Q Centre for the final time.