There’s nothing like a good rest to recharge the batteries and hit the ice flying.
The Victoria Grizzlies gave good evidence that their extended Christmas break worked well. The B.C. Hockey League team put together solid games at home against two squads well up on them in the league standings.
Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Langley Rivermen at The Q Centre followed up a 5-3 victory against Island Division rival Powell River on Friday.
“We’re firing on all cylinders, but you know the old saying, ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ and we’ve got another one this Tuesday,” Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon said after Sunday’s win. “We can feel good about our weekend, but certainly we’ve got another battle on Tuesday (against second-place Cowichan Valley).
Grizzlies goalie Matthew Galajda picked up the shutout, turning aside 22 Langley shots.
“Everything felt good,” he said of posting his third goose egg of the season. “We minimized their chances, our D did a good job of clearing rebounds, and I just so happened to get a shutout.”
The netminder was helped by a two-goal performance by Brayden Gelsinger, who added the pair to the three goals he scored against Powell River and now has 18 on the season to go along with a team-high 30 assists.
Victoria’s P.J. Conlon scored his 10th goal to give his team a 1-0 lead over the Rivermen early in the second period, then Gelsinger popped two straight, one at the 15:32 mark of the period and the next 6:35 into the third.
The Grizzlies later scored twice on the power play during a major penalty to Langley’s Matthew Graham, who was assessed five minutes for a blow to the head as well as a major and game misconduct for scrapping with Victoria’s Chuck Bennis. Jared Virtanen, with his second of the season, and Mitchell Barker, with his fourth, tallied to make it 5-0.
Galajda echoed Didmon’s statement about the players coming in fresh from the long break. And having played well this season against Powell River, he said, the Grizzlies knew they had good chance to win Friday’s game. Galajda kicked out 34 shots for the win in that one.
Victoria never trailed in the contest, leading 1-0 after 20 minutes and opening up a 3-0 lead in the second before Powell River bagged a couple of goals.
Cole Pickup’s second of the game and 14th of the season made it 4-2 Grizzlies 6:03 into the third, but the Kings pulled within one when Kyle Betts scored his second of the game, shorthanded at the 12:03 mark. Gelsinger iced things with an empty netter in the final minute.
While his team suffered “a couple of lapses” against the Kings, Didmon said, “I thought that was a pretty consistent hockey game by our club. Everybody in the lineup had a good game. When you’ve got four lines rolling like that and you can get seven d-men playing and being conservative and efficient, you’re going to have good games.”
As for gaining a little momentum to start 2016, Galajda said he and everyone else in the dressing room hopes to keep things going. With third-place Powell River (22-17-2-0) still enjoying a comfortable 10-point bulge over the fourth-place Grizzlies (16-20-4-0) and Alberni Valley just three points back, there’s lots of work ahead.
“We just know that we’re in a playoff battle right now and we have to keep getting wins,” he said. “Right now we’re on a high for sure. Then we want to go into Cowichan on Tuesday and give them a good game, and try to get to three in a row here.
“If we can get into third or second that’d be huge for us, but right now we’re just taking things a game at a time and trying to get as many points as we can.”
The Grizzlies open a three-game road trip on Friday (Jan. 15) in Prince George, then come back down to play in Chilliwack and Surrey the following two nights. Their next home game is Jan. 23 against Salmon Arm.