They may not have emerged from last weekend in first place, but the Victoria Grizzlies proved they are a road team to be reckoned with in B.C. Hockey League play.
The Grizzlies took four of a possible six points in three games on the mainland, dropping Sunday’s game in Trail, 4-3 to the Smokeaters after beating Chilliwack 4-3 in overtime Friday and Salmon Arm 4-2 the following night.
With Powell River winning all three of their weekend games, the Kings (14-7-0-0) sat in first place to start this week, one point up on the Grizzlies (11-3-2-3), who had two games in hand.
Despite playing their third game in less than 24 hours, the Grizzlies came out with decent energy in Trail on Sunday, outshooting the Smokeaters 10-8 in the first period. Victoria held the edge in shots in the second as well, 15-13, but it was Trail who got the early breaks, scoring the first three goals of the game in the opening 7:45, the latter two coming from Blaine Caton.
Nick Guiney gave the Grizzlies a boost with back-to-back goals, his fourth and fifth of the season, midway through the period. But Connor Brown-Maloski beat Grizzlies starting goaltender Matthew Galajda with a shot at 17:22 mark to make it a 4-2 game.
The Grizzlies kept plugging and got a power-play marker from Tyler Welsh, his ninth goal of the season, with 53 seconds to go in the frame. Nathan Looysen and Jake Stevens were the setup men on the goal.
The visitors kept up the pressure in the third, firing 11 more shots on Trail netminder Linden Marshall, but he was equal to that task, finishing with 33 saves on the night and game first-star honours. Galajda was handed the loss after making 23 stops.
The road trip began in the place where Grizzlies players showcased their skills in September for NHL and college scouts, Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre.
The visitors got a goal from Cody Van Lierop at 4:59 of the first overtime period to give the Grizzlies a 4-3 win and send the roughly 2,400 fans home disappointed.
Keyvan Mokhtari scored twice to lead the Victoria attack and was named first star for his efforts. Cameron Thompson also tallied in the win, while Galajda stopped 30 Chiefs shots. Van Lierop also set up Mokhtari’s second goal, while Jamie Rome finished with two assists.
Welsh bagged his seventh and eighth goals and had three points while newly acquired goalie Tony Rehm made 21 stops in his first start to lead the Grizzlies to victory Saturday in Salmon Arm.
After spotting the Silverbacks a 1-0 first period lead five minutes in, it took nearly 14 more minutes for Welsh to get his team on the board. He intercepted the puck on a Silverbacks power play and raced in alone to score unassisted to make it 1-1.
Looysen, finishing off a passing play from Cole Pickup and Welsh, notched his sixth goal just 1:30 into the second period to give the Grizzlies the lead for good.
Timothy Friedman scored his first of the season, from Mokhtari and Guiney, in the opening minute of the third to extend the lead to 3-1. Salmon Arm’s Jared Turcotte replied midway through the period, but Welsh, from Pickup, restored the two-goal margin at the 13:23 mark.
The Grizzlies return home for a pair of games at The Q Centre this weekend. Friday (Nov. 4) they’ll host Alberni Valley and on Saturday, the Vernon Vipers make their lone visit to Colwood. Both games start at 7 p.m.