Powell River defenceman Johan Steen unloads the puck with Victoria's Jamie Rome bearing down on him

Powell River defenceman Johan Steen unloads the puck with Victoria's Jamie Rome bearing down on him

Grizzlies fall twice to Powell River, BCHL Island standings tighten up

Coach Didmon says now is perhaps the best time to find out what challengers have in them

The Powell River Kings played hungry hockey this weekend in Colwood.

Looking up the Victoria Grizzlies in the B.C. Hockey League’s Island Division standings for the past couple of months, the Kings took a bite out of the Grizzlies’ lead with a pair of wins at The Q Centre, 5-3 Sunday afternoon and 4-2 last night.

Sunday’s game saw the Grizzlies (27-10-3-4) erase a 3-1 second intermission lead with early third-period goals 1:19 apart from Jamie Rome, his 16th of the year, and Nathan Looysen (15th).

But the Kings answered quickly, as Tristan Mullin pulled the trigger during a power play to make it 4-3 at the 8:18 mark. Powell River tightened up on defence with the Grizzlies pressing for another equalizer and Kyle Betts scored his second of the game into an empty net with under three seconds to play.

“We got  a good picture of what they’re going to look like down the stretch,” said Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon, whose squad saw its lead over the second-place Kings trimmed to four points. “They played desperate hockey to play with us and it came down to a couple empty netters.”

The Kings (28-16-1-0) held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 Sunday in chalking up their seventh straight victory. Lucas Clark got the Grizzlies on the board with his 10th goal of the season early in the first.

“Today I thought we just got stronger as the game went on,” Didmon said. “It was an unfortunate bounce that started the game with them scoring nine seconds in. Really, it was a tie hockey game from there.”

Having been outshot 30-16 after two periods, the Grizzlies fired 15 shots at Kings goalie Brian Wilson in the third, compared to seven for Powell River on Tony Rehm, who played both games for the Grizzlies.

Mullin bagged the eventual winner on Saturday as well, scoring 5:37 into the third to snap a 2-2 tie. Carter Turnbull found the empty net in the final minute for his second goal of the game.

Goals 35 seconds apart by Cameron Thompson (12th) and Justin Michaelian (7th) midway trough the second period gave the Grizzlies a 2-1 lead. But the Kings responded four minutes later when Cam Donaldson beat Rehm for his 30th of the season.

The Kings played disciplined hockey through the weekend, Didmon said, noting his team only had four power plays in the two games.

“By no means do I feel they’re a better hockey team than us, but our guys know in that dressing room now that they’re a serious contender,” he said.

“We’ve had an easy go this year, so it’s great that we’re facing some adversity and we realize that hey, it’s not going to get handed to us and that we’ve got to earn it.”

With the Grizzlies rolling four lines over the two games despite missing such key players as team captain Cody Van Lierop on defence, compared to the Kings running with mainly three, Didmon likes the idea of meeting up with Powell River in the post-season.

“I’m excited to play them in a series, because I think we can wear them down.”

Grizzlies open homestand with 4-1 win over Nanaimo

Victoria continued its domination of Nanaimo this season, beating the Clippers 4-1 at The Q Centre last Thursday.

Four different players scored in the win, including newcomer Shawn O’Malley, who scored the eventual winner from Michaelian and Dayne Finnson for his first goal in a Grizzlies uniform.

O’Malley, 19, signed from the Shreveport Mudbugs of the North American Hockey League, played on a line with Grizzlies teammates Michaelian and TJ. Friedmann last season on the U-18 Victory Honda team from Detroit.

Cole Pickup (22nd), Friedmann (12th) and Clark also scored for the Grizzlies, who led 2-0 after two periods.

Rehm stopped 37 of 38 Clippers shots.

The Grizzlies host Cowichan Valley at 7 p.m. this Thursday (Jan. 19) at The Q Centre then play the Capitals in Duncan the following night.