After 68 regular season and playoff games, the Victoria Grizzlies will be on the brink of elimination on Saturday.
That’s the reality after a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Powell River Kings and goaltender Brian Wilson, who surfed to a 33-save shutout on Thursday to give themselves a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven Island Division championship series.
The Kings felt good vibrations from start to finish, taking a 1-0 lead just 11 seconds into the opening frame when forward Kyle Betts found mesh behind Grizzlies goaltender Matthew Galajda.
“It was unlucky. That just happens…it just short of snuck behind him,” said Grizzlies coach Craig Didmon. “It’s tough for the goalie to get a ripe chance right away like that. I don’t fault anyone.”
The teams went scoreless for the next two and a half periods of hockey.
Grizzlies forward Keyvon Mokhtari had the best scoring opportunity for either side, missing the net from the edge of the face-off circle late in the first as Wilson scrambled to get into position.
Kings forward Jonny Evans nabbed his 6th of the post-season with 8:01 to play in the third period before Port Hardy native Curtis McCarrick iced it with an extra insurance marker with under four minutes to play.
Grizzlies defenceman Brett Stirling rung one off the iron in the closing minutes but that was as close as the Grizzlies would come to getting on the board.
Galajda made 23 saves in the defeat.
Despite the loss, Didmon is confident his club can rebound with their backs against the wall.
“It’s going to make us a better team. We’ve got to go in there Game 6 and dominate and then be excited to come back for Monday (Game 7) here,” he said.
Kings coach Kent Lewis said his club won’t be taking its foot off the gas with their third separate lead of the series.
“I always prepare for a seven game series…We are not going to take anything for granted,” he said. “We’ve played well but we also know we gave them one in (Game 4) so we’ve got to be sharper.”
At the end of the first period, Didmon appeared to get into a heated exchange with a group of Kings that included a couple players and at least one coach.
Speaking to reporters after the game, tongue firmly planted in cheek, Didmon said he was merely informing his opponents of good places to eat in Victoria.
Lewis offered, “Things were happening during the game that obviously I think the league should take a handle on. I think coaches should coach, players should play. Players should talk to players and coaches should just talk to their own players. That’s all I’m going to say on that.”
Puck drop for Game 6 is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on Saturday at Hap Parker Arena.