After enjoying a couple of days off to recuperate from three games in three days, the Victoria Grizzlies will be back at soon to prepare to host the B.C. Hockey League’s best team.
The Grizzlies, who came from behind to beat the Clippers 6-3 in Nanaimo on Friday, then lost 6-3 to Port Alberni and 7-2 to Nanaimo at home on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, play the high-flying Penticton Vees on Thursday night (Feb. 4, 7 p.m. The Q Centre).
Last Friday’s win was Victoria’s seventh straight and sent them over the .500 mark for the first time this season. But the Grizzlies saw firsthand what can happen when they take their foot off the gas, said assistant captain Cole Pickup.
“Friday night, everyone was kind of in, there were no passengers on the bench,” he said. “We were a little bit tired for the Sunday skate and it just kind of showed on the scoreboard … Everyone’s gotta be a factor.”
While for the most part the team kept things simple on the weekend, as it had been through the streak, Pickup added, a couple of instances of easing up or players trying to do too much burned them, especially against the Island Division-leading Clippers.
The solution for putting two forgettable home losses behind them, he said, is focusing on preparation. “Guys just gotta be battling in practice … we can’t taking shortcuts or cheating.”
Head coach Craig Didmon’s team takes a 21-22-4-0 record into Thursday’s game against the Vees (41-6-0-1), the No. 2-ranked junior A team in Canada who some time ago clinched first in the Interior Division. He agreed that hard work is the key to getting back on track.
“I think we’ve got to reflect on what we were doing that was getting the job done … our habits and our team play,” he said.
“Certainly when you get into adverse times, that wherewithal, that strong team game kind of slips away a bit. That’s what we kind of saw Saturday, and today, Nanaimo was ready to go. They probably didn’t like blowing a lead on Friday and us coming from behind. We’ve got to remember what we were doing and where we were.”
Some key members of the team were out of the lineup in the two losses. Defenceman Kevin Massy, who scored twice against the Clippers Friday, was out of the lineup Saturday and Sunday after receiving a late-game checking from behind major penalty in Nanaimo. Forward Mitchell Barker was out due to injury on Sunday as was defenceman Brett Stirling.
In that game, the Clippers opened up a 3-0 first-period lead before the Grizzlies’ Jared Virtanen got the locals on the board at the 15:48 mark. Nanaimo had made it 5-1 and chased starter Matthew Galajda from the Victoria net by the time Brayden Gelsinger replied for the Grizzlies late in the second period.
The game saw the Clippers get goals from seven different players and score three power play goals on six opportunities, while the Grizzlies went zero for six.
Saturday’s contest was somewhat similar, as the Bulldogs scored three times in four man-advantage situations and never trailed. It was 2-1 Alberni after a period and 5-2 after 40 minutes.
P.J. Conlon scored in the first and second periods for Victoria, while Nick Guiney tallied in the third. Galajda, who has crafted the third-best goals against record in the league (now 2.44), was in net for all six Bulldogs goals, including two from Chris Schultz.
On Friday, the Clippers overcame a 2-1 deficit to go ahead 3-2 in the second, but gave up three straight goals in the period as the Grizzlies took control. Conlon added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Dante Hahn, Tyler Welsh and Alex Peck also scored in the win, while Nolan Aibel, Devin Brosseau and Troy MacTavish replied for the Clippers.