The Victoria Grizzlies were probably due for a loss.
After a perfect pre-season, the Grizz carried that strong play over to the regular season, posting a sparkling 4-0 record, including a 3-1 win over the Surrey Eagles on Friday, before finally hanging one in the loss column with a tight 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night.
It was a revenge game for the Caps, who were 6-1 losers when these two teams met on Tuesday night in Duncan.
“I think this early in the season when you lose like that in your home rink it’s a tough one. They had so much to play for, revenge and vendetta and all that stuff. Those ingredients seemed to be enough for them to come out and be the better team tonight,” said Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon.
It was a defensive battle throughout much of the contest, with the teams locked in a scoreless tie until a second before the game’s midway point. The visitors found the game’s first goal at 9:59 of the second period when Rhett Kingston snuck one past Grizzlies goaltender Matthew Galajda. It was a flat period for the Grizzlies, who were outshot by a 13-8 margin.
The Grizzlies also suffered a loss beyond the scoreboard, as defenceman Brett Stirling left with a lower body injury after a skirmish around his own net. After the game, Didmon said he doesn’t expect the second-year Grizzly to play this coming week.
The Capitals continued to shut out the home side well into the third, but Keyvan Mokhtari got The Q Centre fans out of their seats with a goal 11:06 into the frame to tie the game at 1-1. It was the Burnaby native’s fourth goal of the season.
“Mokhtari’s a young guy and what he’s doing as an 18 year-old in this league is pretty exceptional. You can see his speed and we’re just learning how to make him his best player still and how to use him in the best way because he is a special player,” Didmon said.
The jubilation was short-lived, however, as Capitals forward Jared Domin found what would prove to be the game-winning goal for the Caps just three minutes later.
Mokhtari hit the post for the Grizzlies in the final minute, but that was as close as they would come to getting back to level terms.
Galajda made 25 saves on 27 shots in the loss.
On Friday, the Grizzlies were outshot by a 36-19 margin but received excellent goaltending from Michael Benson, who made 35 saves in a 3-1 win. Cole Pickup had two goals to pace the Grizzlies, with Dayne Finnson scoring the Grizzlies’ only other marker.
The Grizzlies will have a few days off before grabbing the ferry next weekend for the BCHL showcase at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack. The Grizzlies will have matchups with Langley and Trail in the week-long showcase that features all of the BCHL’s 17 clubs.
Didmon’s club remains in first place in the Island division, two points clear of the Nanaimo Clippers.