Victoria Grizzlies assistant coach Scott Hawthorne wondered before Wednesday’s B.C. Hockey League game against Alberni Valley which Grizzlies team would show up to play Wednesday at The Q Centre.
As it turns out, the one on the ice last night took care of the puck in their own end and took advantage of most of the scoring opportunities the Bulldogs gave them, in posting a big 8-3 victory in a key divisional matchup.
“We definitely brought our top game game today,” Hawthorne said afterward. “We didn’t like giving up two power play goals, but other than that, a great game by everyone.”
The eight goals were the most the Grizzlies (21-16-1-9) have scored in one game this season, matching their output in an 8-7 overtime win at home over Merritt back on Dec. 6.
“We’ve seen the puck bouncing the wrong way for us, and tonight one of the (first-period) goals bounced right onto (Thomas) Gobeil’s stick off of one of their players’ skates,” Hawthorne said. “For us to get some of those bounces, we figure we deserve it and we’re happy with the win.”
The Grizzlies’ top line of Dane Gibson, Brett Gruber and Matthew Kennedy skated circles around the visitors on the night, accounting for four goals and 10 points in total.
Gruber, who notched his team-leading 29th and 30th goals of the season, downplayed his own efforts and those of his line.
“I thought we got contributions from every single one of our lines,” he said. “Our defence was solid, our goaltending was really good; I thought we were firing on all cylinders tonight.
“I don’t think we got as many shots as we usually do, but when we got the shots, we capitalized, so it was good to see.”
The visitors came out fast, opening the scoring 2:21 into the first and making it 2-1 at the 6:06 mark. But after Gibson scored to tie the game at 2-2 at 7:22 from Kennedy and Chris Harpur, it was pretty much all Grizzlies.
The locals, who were outshot 28-27, held period leads of 4-2 and 7-3. Other goal scorers were Shawn McBride, Kevin Massy and Jay Mackie.
Hawthorne praised goaltender Sean Cleary for stepping up his play, making a number of tough saves in his first start since returning recently from an injury.
Marcus Russell and Mitch Makin scored for the Bulldogs (22-17-2-3), who missed a chance to overtake the Grizzlies for third place in the Island Division, but still have three games in hand.
The Grizzlies couldn’t gain ground on second-place Powell River (23-16-0-9) who beat division-leading Nanaimo 3-2 in overtime Wednesday and remain three points ahead.
After taking the weekend off – Alberni plays a home and home series with Nanaimo on Friday and Saturday – the Grizzlies host the Bulldogs again next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at The Q Centre. That game is Toonie Tuesday, when walk-up tickets cost just $2 each.