The Victoria Grizzlies wrapped up the 2016-17 regular season with the back half of a home-and-home series, and playoff preview, against the Nanaimo Clippers.
The Grizzlies led early but were silenced after the first period by Nanaimo goaltender Evan DeBrouwer who made 31 saves. Ben Solin provided the offence with a pair of goals, leading Nanaimo to a 2-1 victory.
The Grizzlies (Now 37-12-5-4, 83 points) finish the season winners of the British Columbia Hockey League’s Island Division, and will have home ice advantage in their first round series against Nanaimo, which begins on Friday.
Nanaimo (Now 23-28-6-1, 51 points) finishes fourth in the Island Division, managing to post their first win of the season against the Grizzlies, going 1-6-1 in the season series.
This was a heated affair from the drop of the puck, and the Grizzlies’ Brett Stirling had a particularly eventful first frame.
The Victoria defenseman was awarded a penalty shot just 13 seconds into the game, but fired the shot wide as the game remained scoreless early on.
Stirling factored in again, dropping the gloves with Nanaimo’s Adam Pilotte resulting in game misconducts for both players.
Victoria opened the scoring early thanks to Cole Pickup’s 27th goal of the season just over five minutes into the game.
That 1-0 lead stood up for nearly 40 minutes, but with less than five minutes remaining in the second period, Nanaimo pulled even on Ben Solin’s first goal of the night, sending the game to the third period in a tie for the second straight night.
Four minutes into the third, Solin put the Clippers ahead, 2-1 with his second goal of the game and 16th of the season.
The game grew increasingly heated for the remainder of the final period, with both teams trying to set a tone for the upcoming playoff series. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, DeBrouwer was perfect in the third period, guiding Nanaimo to the 2-1 win.
Shawn Parkinson made his second start of the season in goal for the Grizzlies, showing well with 18 saves on 20 shots. DeBrouwer stopped 31 of 32 shots in the victory for Nanaimo.
Penalty killing was sharp all around with both teams going scoreless on five powerplay opportunities.
Cole Pickup finishes the season leading the Grizzlies in goals (27) and points (65).
The Grizzlies will play Nanaimo in the first round of the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup Playoffs beginning next week. The first two games will take place in Victoria on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4. Both games are 7:00pm starts at the Q Centre.