At times the Victoria Grizzlies may have felt they were battling more than just the Wenatchee Wild in a 3-1 home defeat on Saturday night.
In addition to one of the top teams in the B.C. Hockey League, the Grizzlies found foes in the injury bug and, according to head coach Craig Didmon, the men in stripes, in what was a mostly gutsy effort from the Island Division-leading Grizzlies.
“I do think that we got the short end of the stick as far as some of the calls went. It was sort of like kicking a dog when it’s down,” Didmon said.
The Grizzlies bench boss was visibly upset about multiple calls throughout the night and was ultimately ejected in the latter half of the third after what he perceived to be a missed tripping call that led to the Wild’s third tally.
Already playing without the injured Cody Van Lierop and Tyler Welsh – neither is expected back this weekend – the Grizzlies went down a pair of forwards during the game when both Nick Guiney and Lucas Clark were handed game misconducts in the first.
Less than 10 minutes into the opening frame, Wenatchee got the scoring started courtesy of AJ Vanderbeck’s 20th of the season.
Grizzlies veteran Cole Pickup responded a handful of minutes later when he was on the receiving end of a play set up by Brett Stirling and Timothy Friedmann.
The 1-1 score held into the third period when Brian Williams notched to go-ahead goal for the Wild.
Later, Matthew Baker added the controversial shorthanded goal that led to Didmon’s dismissal.
Stepping in for absent netminder Matthew Galajda was Wisconsin native Tony Rehm, who kept the Grizzlies in the game while turning aside 40 shots from the most potent offence in the BCHL.
“Tony was great. I thought he stood tall…he was able to come in and make some big stops at big times,” Didmon said.
“I felt good, I thought I stayed calm and did my best to give the team a chance to win,” Rehm said, adding that he worked hard to block out the adversity facing the Grizzlies on a night where they were short a few key regulars.
“You’ve just got to not care about it. You’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing.”
The Grizzlies had four opportunities with the man advantage to Wenatchee’s seven, including a lengthy 5 on 3 late in the second period, but failed to get anything going on special teams.
“We were just a little disjointed as guys were forced to play in different positions at different times. We’re playing against the second best penalty kill in the league and they’re going to pick that apart if guys aren’t organized,” Didmon said.
The loss was just Victoria’s fifth on home ice this season, although it came on a night where the Cowichan Valley Capitals and the Powell River Kings, the division’s second and third place clubs, both lost, meaning the Grizzlies didn’t lose any ground to their main rivals.
The Grizzlies will be back on Q Centre ice tomorrow afternoon when the Nanaimo Clippers pay them a visit for a 2 o’clock puck drop. The Grizzlies are riding a three game winning streak over their Malahat rivals.