After playing six good periods of hockey last weekend, the Victoria Grizzlies are looking at stringing together 15 more to wind up the B.C. Hockey League regular season.
“It’s all (Island) division hockey from here on in and we want to make an impression,” said head coach and general manager Craig Didmon, whose team plays the Bulldogs in Port Alberni tomorrow night (Feb. 18) and returns home to play Powell River this Saturday.
With only the one game left against the second-place Kings (26-18-1-9), who lead the Grizzlies (24-18-1-10) by three points, securing home ice advantage for the playoffs is largely out of their hands, he said.
“Home ice advantage is always an advantage, for sure, and we’d love to have that. But we can’t control that entirely. We do want to win every game. If we can play our game for the rest of the way, we’re going to be in good shape.”
A 6-2 home win over Prince George on Saturday and an 8-4 win over Alberni the night before at The Q Centre saw the Grizzlies leapfrog back over the Bulldogs (26-21-2-3) into third place.
Victoria’s top line of Dane Gibson, Brett Gruber and new linemate Jay Mackie led the attack as expected, piling up 19 points in total. Mackie replaced Matthew Kennedy, who is out until late March with a broken collarbone.
While Didmon expects those players and veterans like Thomas Gobeil to step up when it counts, he also liked what he saw from the checking line of team captain Shawn McBride, Kevin Massy and Ayden MacDonald.
“(McBride) has been solid all season,” the coach said, noting that the trio are scoring some timely goals as well as preventing others.
Tonight’s game at Weyerhaeuser Arena is the proverbial four-pointer for Alberni, who take a tough road trip through the Interior Division this weekend then finish off with back-to-back games in Powell River.
Didmon wants to see the same intensity the Grizzlies played with in their past three games against the scrappy Dogs: Victoria is 3-0, winning by a combined score of 20-7.
So, the Grizzlies’ playoff position is in their hands in some ways and not in others. Making an impression against each of their divisional rivals, as Didmon said, may be the best thing they can do heading into the playoffs, which start March 3.
“It was hard coming in mid-season like I did,” he said. “But I really feel after this weekend that guys are starting to understand the system and the defensive consciousness that needs to be in place (to succeed in) playoff hockey.”
Saturday’s game at The Q Centre starts at 7 p.m.
The Victoria Grizzlies moved back into third in the BCHL’s Island Division with a pair of wins last weekend. Here’s a snapshot of how they looked:
• Feb. 13, Grizzlies 8 Alberni Valley 4 – VG: Brett Gruber 3 goals, 1 assist; Dane Gibson 5A; Jay Mackie, Zach Dixon, Ayden MacDonald 1G 1A each; Cole Pickup 1G; Thomas Gobeil 1G; Michael Stiliadis 35 saves. AV: Mitch Makin 2G 1A; Tyler Poveloskie 1G 1A
• Feb. 14, Grizzlies 6 Prince George 2 – VG: D. Gibson 2G 1A; B. Gruber 1G 2A; Z. Dixon 1G 1A; C. Pickup 1G; A. MacDonald 1G; Sean Cleary 20 saves. PG: Brogan O’Brien 1G; Cole McCaskill 1G.