A new B.C. Hockey League season begins for the Victoria Grizzlies tomorrow night (Sept. 11), as the Colwood-based club takes on the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The Grizzlies’ lineup is dotted with experience, skill and size, and returning players are a key component for head coach/general manager Craig Didmon’s team.
“This group has shown a dedication to our systems and to getting better every day, and putting in the work it will take to compete in a tough division,” Didmon said. “We had a competitive, high-tempo camp and it made for some difficult decisions for the coaching staff. But we believe we’ll ice a group nightly that will give us a chance to be successful. It’s a long season and we all have to be ready to battle and play smart hockey.”
Up front, returnees P.J. Conlon (also named team captain this week) and Cole Pickup are complimented by newcomers Brayden Gelsinger, Joey Visconti, Alex Peck, Corey Iapalucci, J.D. Falconer, Sage Fleming, Keyvan Mokhtari and Tyler Welsh. Mitchell Barker and Nick Guiney are other returning players and will be focused on fitting into the top six of the forward unit.
Conlon (six goals, 13 assists, 19 points last season) and Pickup (10-11-21) are expected to take the next step offensively and give added punch around Gelsinger, who had 18 goals and 58 points last season, toiling for Cowichan Valley and West Kelowna.
On defence, veterans Kevin Massy and Cody Van Lierop are joined by equally mobile newcomers Jake Stevens, Brett Stirling, Cal Walker, Mark Krabben and Drayson Pears. Goaltenders Matthew Galajda and Mitchell Benson, two 18-year-old rookies, fared well in pre-season.
Pickup, Massy, Gelsinger and Van Lierop will serve as assistant captains this season.
The Grizzlies play five games away before returning to The Q Centre on Oct. 1 for the home opener against the Coquitlam Express.