Midget Grizzlies save the best for last in Classic tournament

Juan de Fuca faces tough road games in Island hockey league play this weekend

They finished a challenging Greater Victoria Midget Hockey Classic tournament with a flourish, but the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies will be looking make their mark in league play in the coming weeks.

The Grizzlies rolled to a 7-0 win over the Vancouver Thunderbirds on Sunday at the Panorama Recreation Centre, after posting a 1-2-1 record in round robin play.

While he noted the team needs to get a 60-minute effort from all players to be successful, Grizzlies head coach Chris Kueber voiced optimism after the weekend games.

“It’s early in the season and you build on the positives,” he said. He added the team has a chance to demonstrate what they learned from their Classic experience when they face off against local Island Tier 1 AAA league rivals Saanich and Peninsula on the road this weekend.

Showing what they can do when everyone is pulling together, Kueber said, the Grizzlies’ final-game win followed a Saturday contest where Juan de Fuca played to a 3-3 tie against the Thunderbirds.

“I think it was our inexperience and making the commitment to come to play,” he said of the weekend results. “But we figured it out by the end. You take the positives where you can get ’em.”

Against the Thunderbirds on Sunday, Jax Leeson was named player of the game for the Grizzlies having scored once and set up four goals, while Evan Kneip recorded the hat trick and assisted on a Kevin Smith goal. Tyler Magnuson and Ben Duffin also scored for the Grizzlies, who led 4-0 after one period and 7-0 after two.

Dylan Wilson picked up the shutout and finished up with a sparkling 1.65 goals against average in three games played over the weekend.

Leeson (one goal, four assists) and Kneip (4-1-5) led the Grizzlies offence through the five games, while Duffin, Smith, Blake Dreyer and Brett Hattie each scored twice and totalled four points. Jarod Rossander had a goal and three helpers.

The Grizzlies opened the Classic with a 4-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in front of a boisterous crowd at the Juan de Fuca Arena last Thursday. They lost a slim 2-1 decision to Burnaby Winter Club on Friday then lost 7-3 to the Hollyburn Huskies of Vancouver the next morning.

Saanich led the Island Division round robin standings with a 3-0-1 record, while Peninsula was 3-1. Burnaby led the Mainland Division at 2-1-1. Saanich was playing Burnaby in the final game Sunday afternoon.

The Grizzlies play the Braves at 6 p.m. Saturday at Pearkes Recreation Centre, then travel to North Saanich to play the Eagles at 2 p.m. Sunday at Panorama Rec. Centre.