Darren Hards of the Cowichan Valley Capitals bears down on Victoria Grizzlies goaltender Matthew Galajda in B.C. Hockey League play earlier this season. The teams are neck-and-neck atop the Island Division standings and play each other this Friday in Colwood and Saturday in Duncan.

Grizzlies, Caps playing meaningful hockey in October

Victoria, Cowichan Valley teams play BCHL home and home series this weekend

The junior hockey rivalry between Victoria and Cowichan Valley has been a thing for many years now.

But for the first time in a while in the B.C. Hockey League, games between the Grizzlies and Capitals have even more meaning. Heading into Friday’s (Oct. 14) game at The Q Centre and Saturday’s contest at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan, the teams are deadlocked atop the Island Division standings.

“We’re going to get to know them really well really soon if we don’t already,” joked Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon. “I have to go back to, I think, the 2008-09 season for the last time we were battling with them for the division. It’s a bit of a resurgence for them (too).”

The Grizzlies (6-2-2-2) won the latest head-to-head battle with the Caps (7-3-2-0) last Friday in Colwood, 4-3 in the sixth double overtime game of the season for the Victoria squad. Victoria enjoys a 2-1 lead in the season series between the teams, having also won 6-1 and lost 2-1 last month.

“They’re a hard-working team and they’re definitely a tough team to play in the fact there is that rivalry, and just being up the road 40 minutes,” Didmon said of the Capitals.

“There is some familiarity over the past couple years, with a number of players back on both teams. You can feel an emotional thing (present) in the games. Bob (Caps head coach Beatty) and I both like that because it makes both of our teams better.”

Jake Stevens’ goal 3:23 into the second extra frame last week completed a major comeback for the Grizzlies, who trailed Cowichan Valley 3-0 after one period and 3-1 after two.

The locals used a Herculean third period effort – outshooting the Caps 23-8 – to tie the game at 3-3 on goals from Tyler Welsh and Cole Pickup, who scored at the 19:41 mark with goalie Matthew Galajda pulled for an extra attacker.

The Grizzlies continued their dominance in overtime, outshooting the Capitals 4-2 and 5-2, respectively.

Lucas Clark bagged his first of the season to get Victoria on the board in the second period, after goals by Michael Montambault, Max Newton and George Sennott staked the visitors a 3-0 lead in the first.

Stevens finished with three points to lead the Grizzlies attack, while Galajda stopped 29 shots in all for the win.

“I want us to be better in our own rink, and take it to the other team from the start,” Didmon said of this weekend’s games. “We seem to get caught up in it for 10 or 15 minutes a game. I’d say we need just a better effort for 60 minutes in our home rink.”

The Grizzlies, minus Pickup, who was on a college recruiting visit, and still-injured veterans Brett Stirling and Nick Guiney, went on to drop a 3-1 decision on Sunday afternoon at home to the visiting Chilliwack Chiefs, while the Capitals were beating Powell River 5-2 in Duncan to grab a share of first place.

The Kings (7-6-0-0) sat just two points back in third heading into their game tonight against Coquitlam.

Both Friday’s game at The Q Centre and Saturday’s contest in Duncan get underway at 7 p.m.

BCHL tidbits … It was announced Wednesday that winger Cole Pickup has been successful in obtaining a Div. 1 NCAA hockey scholarship from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The local hockey product and current longest standing Grizzlies player is expected to suit up for the Mavericks for four seasons, beginning in 2017-18.

Wenatchee is the only team to remain unbeaten so far this season, sitting at 8-0-1-0 atop the Mainland Division. The Wild have four players in the league’s top 10 in scoring, including leader Brendan Harris (5-18-23) who is averaging more than 2.5 points per game.

Pickup continues to lead the Grizzlies in scoring, with 18 points (8-10) in 11 games, followed by Welsh with 13 and Stevens with 12. Galajda sits fourth among BCHL goalies in goals against average with 2.21 in nine games.



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