A big win on home ice Sunday will likely make the difference between first and second for the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies bantam Tier 2 rep hockey team.
A 4-3 victory over Cowichan Valley at The Q Centre in Colwood gave the locals an 8-2-2 record in the Vancouver Island Division 1 league, leaving them tied in points with Comox Valley (7-1-4). While those two teams amazingly tied each of their three meetings this regular season – the first tiebreaker is head-to-head games – the Grizzlies were expected to be awarded top spot by virtue of their one additional win.
“We’re pretty confident that we’ve done enough to win the first-place banner,” said Grizzlies team manager Doug Estey after Sunday’s game.
Connor McClelland, Craig Phipps, Dayton Clarke and Jaxon Krupa scored for Juan de Fuca, who led 2-0 after the first period and scored two more goals in the third after the visitors tied the game at 2-2. The Capitals pulled within one with a goal at the 17:35 mark of the third, but couldn’t beat Grizzlies goaltender Jayden Polard after that.
McClelland and Krupa also had one assist each, while teammate Brayden Friesen set up the first two goals.
Next up for the Juan de Fuca squad is the south Island playoff round robin, which are expected to get underway the weekend of Jan. 30 and 31. The top two teams from that competition advance to the Island semifinals against the top two from the north Island.
Looking ahead, Estey said the Grizzlies will likely see the Peninsula and Saanich Tier 2 teams, and the Victoria Racquet Club Tier 1 team in the south playoffs. All three of those teams competed in the Division 1 league this season.
“We’re quite competitive with Peninsula Tier 2, and very competitive with Saanich and Racquet Club,” Estey said, noting that his team has played each in either tournament, exhibition or pre-season tiering games. “I’m fairly confident if we play like we’re capable of playing, then we should have a good chance of winning (the round robin).”
The team’s regular season title would be the second Island regular season banner won by a Juan de Fuca Association bantam team – the Tier 1 Grizzlies (11-0-1) clinched first in Division 1 with an 5-3 win over Saanich T2 on Jan. 8. Meanwhile, the Tier 3 Grizzlies (6-3-1) were awaiting the result of the Saanich T3 and Kerry Park T3 game Sunday to see whether they finished second in the Island Div. 3 league.