Grizzlies struggle to find finishing touch

Getting 60-minute effort from team proving tough, coach says

Playing with a lead is something the Victoria Grizzlies are having a tough time working with, especially late in the game.

The B.C. Hockey League squad dropped a 6-5 decision to West Kelowna on home ice Sunday after leading by two goals three separate times.

The Grizzlies escaped with a 5-4 victory at The Q Centre over the Surrey Eagles the night before, having jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one period. They weren’t so lucky last Wednesday against Nanaimo, as the visiting Clippers overcame a 4-3 deficit with 7:40 to go in the third to beat Victoria 5-4.

“It’s kind of been how we’ve played most of the year,” a clearly frustrated Grizzlies assistant coach Micah Aivazoff said after Sunday’s loss. “We play a good period, a good two periods and then we fall back into some of our old traps that we’re trying to work out of.”

The Grizzlies held period leads of 3-1 and 5-4 against West Kelowna, but failed to put the cap on the game. Michael Buonincontri tallied his third of the game for the Warriors on an early third period power play to tie it, then Andrew Johnson notched the winner, his second goal of the game, 6:57 into the period.

Victoria fired just five shots at West Kelowna goalie Scott Patton in the final frame, a couple of which came in the dying minutes as they played desperate hockey.

“We’ve got a group here that’s new and we’re trying to get them to understand that winning is hard and you have to compete for 60 minutes,” said Aivazoff, who was guiding the team with head Brad Knight serving the last of a three-game suspension. “We do it at times and then we revert back to some old bad habits and it costs us. It cost us tonight.”

Penalties cost the Grizzlies big time, as the Warriors scored three times on five power play opportunities. The locals did, however, score on two of their own three man advantage chances.

Cole Pickup led the Grizzlies attack with two goals and an assist, while singles went to Cody Van Lierop, Brett Gruber and Matthew Kennedy. Jay Mackie added a pair of assists.

Starting goaltender Sean Cleary was pulled for backup Michael Stiliadis when Buonincontri scored to pull his team to within one at 4-3, 9:58 into the second period.

The loss left the Grizzlies (6-6-0-2) with a 1-2 record for the home stand and marked their 11th straight one-goal decision, during which they’ve gone 4-5-0-2.

“We obviously want to play a better brand of hockey at home,” Aivazoff said. “If we score five goals at home we should win the hockey game. It’s pretty obvious that defensively we’ve got some work to do and as a group, they’ve got to learn that it’s hard to win and you’ve got sacrifice to win.”

On Saturday, Mackie scored twice while Dane Gibson and Pickup had two points each. Cleary stopped 23 of 27 shots for the win.

Against the Clippers, Gibson scored twice to lead the Grizzlies, including a shorthanded marker to open the scoring 3:30 into the first period. Garret Forster, Meirs Moore and Gruber chipped in two points each.

After Gibson’s second goal made it 4-3 Victoria, Nanaimo got a power play goal from Yanni Kaldis at 14:34, then got the winner from Cole Maier with 1:56 to go.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

420 celebrations turn over new leaf at B.C. legislature

Cannabis is legal for the first time in the 21-year existence of the 420 event in Victoria

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake returns to Langford

Annual fundraising event held from April 26 to 28

VIDEO: ‘Stewie the Starfish’ mascot revealed at Premier League kickoff party

Pacific FC kickoff party scores in Victoria Inner Harbour

Report calls on Saanich to expand multicultural programming at recreation facilities

Report also notes that Saanich could do more for sexual minorities.

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Most Read