Jamie Rome gave himself a great pre-Christmas present Sunday, scoring three times and setting up another goal to lead the Victoria Grizzlies to a 6-2 win over visiting Prince George at The Q Centre.
The 18-year-old Calgary native and Grizzlies rookie notched his first B.C. Hockey League hat trick, a performance that gave him eight goals in his last nine games and 14 on the season, good for third on the club.
Rome, who got the 5-2 goal from Lucas Clark at the 11:10 mark of the third period, said it was nice to finally get the hat trick. The play came with the man advantage and saw defenceman Dayne Finnson send a lead pass to fellow blueliner Brett Stirling, who spied Rome driving to the net.
“It went off the defenceman’s stick right to me and I was lucky enough to put it in on the left side,” said Rome, who had scored twice in two earlier games this season.
The Grizzlies (23-6-3-4) were coming off a hard-fought 4-4 double overtime tie in Port Alberni on Friday night, a game that saw the visitors erase a 4-1 Bulldogs lead with two late goals in the second period and one more in the third. The weekend results left them with a 10-point lead atop the Island Division.
Victoria opened up a 3-1 lead over Prince George after one period, but saw the Spruce Kings’ Ben Poisson cut the margin to one with a power-play goal 12:48 into the second period.
Victoria was forced to kill off a five-on-three penalty situation late in the second then battled through a four-minute shorthanded situation early in the third after Rome was assessed a double minor for high-sticking.
Not long after Rome stepped out of the box, he helped set up Cameron Thompson’s ninth of the season at the 7:20 mark.
“The penalty kills make me happy,” said Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon. “There was some tough calls and we got ourselves in a tough position … but the guys worked hard and the next thing you know we get one against the flow … so I was was happy with the (overall) performance.”
Marty Westhaver, with his fourth goal, and Cole Pickup with his 15th, also scored in the win.
Tony Rehm, winding up his stint as the Grizzlies’ number 1 man in net with Matthew Galajda in Bonnyville, Alta. with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge, stood tall making 44 saves against a determined Spruce Kings side. The win pushed Rehm’s season record to 6-1.
Victoria was also missing veterans Tyler Welsh, Cody Van Lierop and Keyvan Mokhtari for the game. Didmon, who called this a “battered and bruised group,” said the hope is that players not only get a chance for some rest and relaxation time with their families over the break, but that they return ready to get back to work.
“We’ve talked about it all year, we just have to keep getting better. Teams are doing their homework on us and we’ve had to make adjustments through the games,” he said. “We feel good about this team and we want to do something special with this group for sure.”
As for Rome, he likes the way the Grizzlies are looking two-thirds of the way into the regular season.
“We’ve just got to keep playing our systems, I think that’s what’s been giving us success recently,” he said. “Then it’s just come back ready to play and don’t let our minds get off it during the break and be ready to go.”
Bear Claws … Galjada and Team Canada West finished fifth at the Challenge thanks to a 5-3 win over Switzerland on Friday. The Grizzlies goalie made 44 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Czech Republic in the semifinals Dec. 14 and finished with a 3.27 goals against average in three games … Speaking of goalies, Peninsula Panthers junior B goaltender Shawn Parkinson made 44 saves for the Grizzlies on Friday in his BCHL debut. The 17-year-old received a baptism by fire, as he battled through a tough start to help the team reach overtime then kicked out 12 shots in OT.