Trail Smokeaters forward Jake Lucchini tries to stay one stride ahead of pursuers Jake Emilio

Grizzlies take three of four BCHL games in five days

Back-to-back wins over division-leading Nanaimo help move West Shore club over the .500 mark

It wasn’t the way Brad Knight wanted to collect two points, but Sunday’s 6-5 double overtime win over Trail showed him “resilience” on the part of his players.

Zach Dixon scored the winner 1:07 into the second overtime period at The Q Centre to give the B.C. Hockey League team their third victory in the past four games. With two of those wins coming over Island Division-leading Nanaimo, this week’s results erased at least some of the bad taste from the recent 0-3 Interior road trip.

“It’s funny, it’s easy to get up for teams that are really good, especially that much higher in the standings than you,” Knight said. “The fact is we did, we did OK, I’m happy where we’re at 24 games into the season. We’re doing OK.”

The Grizzlies, fourth on the Island with 26 points (11-9-0-4) get another good chance to add to the win column tonight (Nov. 26) when they host struggling Island cellar dweller Cowichan Valley at 7 p.m.

Having erased a 2-0 Trail lead in the first and scored four straight goals, the Grizzlies took a 4-2 lead into the third period. Knight blamed himself for allowing Trail to get back into the game with a power play goal from Charlie Zuccarini 6:26 into the frame.

“I take a stupid penalty from the bench, frustrated on missing a call. That’s my fault. Sometimes you gotta eat crow to win,” he said. “I put the kids behind there. I felt bad. It was just nice for them to get the win. They deserved it, they earned it, they worked hard. I thought they found a way to keep alive, so that’s good.”

The visitors tied it at 4-4 at the 12:22 mark, not long after the Grizzlies killed off a two-minute roughing minor to Chris Harpur.

Jay Mackie converted a Shawn McBride pass into the slot to give the locals a 5-4 lead, but Connor Brown-Maloski got it back for Trail with 2:42 to play.

After both teams created little in the way of serious scoring chances going four-on-four in the first five-minute overtime, the Grizzlies grabbed momentum when the teams went down to three-on-three for the second OT. Speedy Garrett Forster ripped a shot from the right wing faceoff circle that tested goalie Adam Todd, then Dixon followed up from the same spot about 20 seconds later.

Dixon, who beat Todd with a wrist shot that snuck inside the far post for his fourth goal of the season, was glad his team finished well.

“I’m excited we got the win. We kind of came back, we were down a little bit, but pulled through and got the win,” he said, adding as an afterthought, “we aren’t very good at finishing off games.”

Matthew Kennedy led the Grizz with a pair of goals and an assist, while Forster finished with three assists.

Dixon notched the winner in a 5-4 win in Nanaimo last Wednesday as well. Set up by Harpur and Forster, he broke a 4-4 tie with a power play goal – his second tally of the game – with 2:50 to go in the third period. The Grizzlies held a 4-2 lead entering the third period of that game as well. Mackie led Victoria skaters with a goal and two assists.

Last Friday’s game between the teams was more of a defensive battle, with Jake Emilio’s third-period power play goal from Kevin Massy at 14:05 proving the winner in a 3-2 victory.

“Those were huge wins, we needed that,” Dixon said. “They’re top in our division and they’ve beat us every time. We got the home and home and beat ’em both times.”

Dane Gibson and Brett Gruber also scored for the winners on Friday, while the two goalies were named first and second stars: Victoria’s Michael Stiliadis stopped 30 of 32 shots for top billing, while Nanaimo’s Jakob Severson turned aside 26 shots.

The lone blemish on the week’s record for the Grizzlies was a 4-1 loss in Powell River on Saturday. After a scoreless first, the Kings scored the next three goals to take a commanding lead. Forster was the lone Grizzly to beat Kings goalie Brett Magnus on 33 shots, making it 3-1 with 2:38 to go in the third. Powell River added an empty netter to round out the scoring.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com