Victoria Grizzlies forward Dane Gibson (second from left) celebrates a goal with teammates during a BCHL game at The Q Centre. The graduating 20 year old

Grizzlies gunner refelects on final B.C. Hockey League season

Dane Gibson begins NCAA journey in Maine this summer

While the Victoria Grizzlies’ finish in his final season of junior hockey wasn’t what Dane Gibson hoped for, he considers himself fortunate things turned out the way they did overall.

Gibson, named last week to the B.C. Hockey League’s first all-star team, posted junior career-best numbers in his only year playing with the Grizz, after spending his first two seasons with the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

A number of things led to him having his most successful individual season on the ice – his 32 goals and 57 assists gave him a team-high and BCHL third-best 89 points. Perhaps the biggest factor was making a bold move in the off-season.

“I was very nervous in the summer, but I am so glad that I asked (for a trade to the Grizzlies),” the Sidney native says. Not only was he playing much closer to home and able to see his family on a regular basis, he adds, he found himself in a positive hockey situation.

“It was tremendous getting to play at home, and I really was happy with the year I had and all the teammates I had with me for my last season. I had such a great time; the coaches were unreal.”

The team struggled to find its form under coach-general manager Brad Knight, but began to right the ship when former head coach Craig Didmon was brought back in by the Grizzlies ownership. The team got hot late to finish the regular season second on the Island – powered largely by the Gibson line, with Brett Gruber and Matthew Kennedy (see below) – but lost a tight opening round playoff series in six games to Powell River.

Gibson, a six-foot-two, 210-pound winger, has more high-level hockey to look forward to. Earlier this year he inked a four-year, full-ride deal to attend the University of Maine and play for the Black Bears of the NCAA’s Hockey East conference. He’s been asked to arrive on campus around the end of July to begin taking courses, as a way to lighten the academic load during hockey season.

Gibson, a good passer with soft hands and a nose for the net, expects he’ll need some transition time to get used to the college game, which is more focused on speed. As for the notion that freshmen have to work harder than veterans to see ice time, he expects that if he works hard and proves he deserves a spot in the lineup, he’ll see his share of game time.

The Black Bears finished middle of the pack in Hockey East this past season and like the Grizzlies, lost their opening round playoff matchup, to Vermont.

Last Saturday, watching Providence beat Boston University in the Frozen Four final, Gibson got a sense of what to expect in the coming years.

“It’s gonna be an amazing experience, although with a little bit of a culture shock,” he says of moving to small-town New England. “It’s going to be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.”

As for any advice he might have for up-and-coming Grizzlies, he says to make the most of every game, every season.

“Some of the younger guys can say there’s always next year, but when your 20-year-old season comes up and you’re down to your last few games (it can hit you),” he says. “It goes by so fast and a lot of people take it for granted. I’d say to always work hard.”

Off to school

Graduating Grizzlies player Dane Gibson is one of six team members committed to post-secondary programs.

• Defenceman Meirs Moore, who topped Grizzlies’ blueliners with 47 points, is off to Renssaelaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) this fall, while fellow d-man Jake Emilio is headed to Colorado College. Both are Div. 1 schools.

• Among returning players, forwards Brett Gruber and Matthew Kennedy are committed to Arizona State, while forward Jay Mackie has a deal with Holy Cross, again both are Div. 1 programs.

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