Victoria Grizzlies forward Keyvon Mokhtari tangles with Coquitlam Express defender David Giunta during first period play on Friday night. The teams skated to a 4-4 tie.

Victoria Grizzlies forward Keyvon Mokhtari tangles with Coquitlam Express defender David Giunta during first period play on Friday night. The teams skated to a 4-4 tie.

Victoria Grizzlies fail to put away Coquitlam Express, settle for tie

The Grizzlies couldn't take advantage of a dominant opening two periods on Friday night and skated to a 4-4 tie.

On Friday night, the Coquitlam Express were the annoying bug buzzing around the Grizzlies’ head. Try as they might, Victoria simply couldn’t squash their opponents, and eventually it cost them a point.

While the Express deserve a measure of credit in fighting back for a 4-4 tie, it would be fair to criticize the Grizzlies for failing to put the visitors away, because they certainly had their chances on a night where they outshot their opponents by a 40-31 margin.

“I just don’t think we were hungry enough in realizing the importance of two points. It’s early in the season and we’re starting to learn some lessons,” said head coach Craig Didmon.

The teams traded goals in the first period, with Cole Pickup getting his seventh for the Grizzlies and Owen Stout responding with his third for the Express. It was a period that would be a microcosm of the entire game, as Victoria dominated the play in the period while putting 19 shots on the Express net compared to seven against, but had a difficult time beating opposing goaltender Reid Cooper.

The Grizzlies appeared to take control in the second, scoring three of the next four goals to take a 4-2 lead into the latter stages of the period.

Momentum shifted drastically in the last minute of the frame when Blake Hayward found the back of the net at 19:18 to get the Express back to within a goal.

“The goal in the last minute…that was the turning point. We got away from how we were playing. When we were playing smart hockey they couldn’t get the puck out of their zone, but then we started to cheat and hope. That’s all a team like that (needs),” Didmon said.

Didmon pulled goaltender Mitchel Benson during the intermission in favour of Matthew Galajda.

“I just felt that (Benson) wasn’t getting a lot of action and the action that he got, the puck was behind (him),” he said, adding that Galajda tends to have an easier time in games where he gets less work.

Galajda made a handful of nice saves in the third as the Express played their best period of the game while outshooting the Grizzlies by an 8-5 count. The wall eventually came down when William Lawrence capitalized on an opportunity with just over four minutes to play, putting the teams back on equal terms for the first time since the early part of the second period.

There were chances from both sides across the two overtime periods, but Lawrence’s tying goal completed the scoring.

The tie gives the Grizzlies a 5-1-1-2 record to close out September. Victoria is still on top of the Island Division, three points clear of the Powell River Kings and four points up on the Cowichan Valley Capitals, albeit with two extra games played.

The Grizzlies are on the road to face the Kings tonight.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com