With their first two head-to-head matchups in the books, two things have become clear when it comes to the Victoria Grizzlies and the Nanaimo Clippers.
One, these two teams don’t like each other very much, and two, the Grizzlies appear to have a decided edge over their Island Division rivals.
Over the weekend, Victoria earned a clean sweep across a home and home series that included a 1-0 shutout win and a 5-2 victory in an ultra-physical affair.
“Back to back against them you know it’s going to get a little tough and a little physical and I think we stood our ground and we pushed on them just as hard as they pushed on us,” said Grizzlies captain Cody Van Lierop.
On Friday night on the road, the Grizzlies got stellar goaltending from Matthew Galajda – who stopped all 31 shots he faced – and a late second period goal from Nathan Looysen that stood as the winner.
A night later, Looysen got the Grizzlies scoring started much earlier, finding the back of the net 47 seconds into the opening frame.
Timothy Friedmann added a pair to give him six in his first 11 games with the club and Brett Stirling and Jake Stevens closed out the scoring for the first-place Grizzlies.
The Clippers had their best moments in the second period, which lead to a Tate Coughlin goal that cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 2-1. A media timeout followed, and head coach Craig Didmon stressed to his club that they had to raise their compete level.
Friedmann found a quick goal out of the timeout which seemed to take the wind out of the Clippers’ sails.
The St. Louis native has given the team a solid dose of secondary scoring since he was acquired, adding to an already deep group of forwards, and his offensive flair was the difference in the win.
“When we brought him in I expected him to be doing what he’s doing. He’s a very good hockey player and we’re fortunate to have him. He gives us that secondary threat,” Didmon said.
While the Grizzlies didn’t back down physically, Didmon was pleased that his club was able to maintain their composure and limit the time it spent in the penalty box.
“They didn’t let them get under our skin. They were doing all those things in order to try and get us off our game and I thought we stuck to our guns,” he said.
Van Lierop said the team’s discipline comes down to the work they put in before the opening face-off.
“I think we prepare well. Before the game we always know that they’re going to be coming and pushing on us…we understand that we have to fight through that,” he said.
The win allowed the Grizzlies to end November with seven wins against just two losses.
“It’s a great leadership group and they’re winning hockey games so they’re happy…they’re working hard,” Didmon said. “They wanted to have a perfect weekend and they got it.”
The Grizzlies (18-5-2-3) will have a busy weekend on the road to begin December with games in Prince George, Merritt and Coquitlam next weekend and a Dec. 7 date in Nanaimo. They’ll return to home-ice on Dec. 10 to face the 21-5-1-0 Wenatchee Wild.