This was the game that Nanaimo Clippers coach Mike Vandekamp said in the post game show that most players had circled on their calendars as a MUST WIN game!
Despite the pressure being on to win this game—(the winning team would take over the lead in the Island division)—our Grizzlies did what is fast becoming their trademark! They spotted their opponents 2 goals at the beginning of the first period. It has become more than a coincidence that the Grizzlies seem to play better under pressure while climbing out from under a deficit. And that is exactly what our 'come from behind kids' did again this game. After giving up the first 2 goals to the clippers early in the first period our Grizz came back with 3 unanswered goals to finish the first period with a one goal lead! And those goals did not come easily as both teams traded huge hits and unmercifully pounded everyone who dared to touch the puck! (And sometimes they did not even have the puck!)
Our Grizzlies started the game with 4 regular players scratched mostly because of recent injuries. The scratches were Dave Walchuk, Mitch Meek , Myles Powell and Justin Coachman. By the end of the game Turner Lawson, Brett Hartskamp, Chase Kaiser, and David Mazurek were stacked up in the infirmary also, and only Dave Mazurek managed to return to the game. Needless to say, by the end of the third period the few players that we had still standing were being rolled over and over with short lines. And to make matters worse, the Clippers pulled their goalie for the last minute or so and played us 6 on 5 with no mercy!
So anyway, that was a hell of a game guys! You busted your tails (and bodies) for this one. Big congratulations go to our AP player Brody Coulter who scored his first goal as a Grizzly at the end of the first period! And congrats again to Gerry Fitzgerald for being the game's first star, and to his brother Leo for being named third star! You guys are definitely awesome!!
The Clippers out-shot us 31 to 25 but in the end our Grizzlies won the game 5 to 4.
Now here is how the game unfolded.
Only 17 seconds into the first period Clipper Brenden Forbes scored the opening goal. This was followed at 8.21 with another Clipper goal by Michael McNicholas. At this point the ferocious Grizzly Bear woke up, shook himself off and decided to do something about it. The boys started playing hard hitting, grinding hockey and scored 3 goals by the end of the first. At 14.21 Leo Fitzgerald scored from Blake Thompson, at 16.13 DJ Jones scored from Zach Urban and Gerry Fitzgerald and at 17. 46 Brody Coulter (our AP) scored from Garrett Skrbich. Way to go Brody! Victoria took a one goal lead into the first intermission.
Only 34 seconds into the second period Gerry Fitzgerald scored with help from brother Leo. At this point Nanaimo's coach Mike Vanderkamp decided to eject starting goaltender Jason Argue and put into goal their backup Jarrod Schamerhorn. Jarrod played for the rest of the game until he was pulled for the last minute or so of the third period.
Goals were then traded back and forth for the remainder of the game—at 9.22 of the second Clipper Michael McNicholas scored and then at 14.19 Victoria's Gerry Fitzgerald scored from his brother Leo and Mark McLellan. This gave Victoria a 5 to 3 lead going into the third period.
At 12.11 of the third period Kyle Kramer from the Clippers scored tho only goal of the period. But this brought the score to an uncomfortably close 5 to 4 and the Clippers did everything possible to score a tying goal before the end of the third. Several times pucks bounced off the goal posts at both ends of the arena but the beat up, worn out and bruised Grizzlies persevered for the win.
Game Thoughts Victoria -
Victoria reminded the Island division that they are still the team to beat after this weekend. Going into Frank Crane Arena, against a rough and tumble Clippers team who have two good scoring lines, play a phyisical game and have an impressive tandem in goal, a 5-4 scoreline for the second night in a row is impressive to say the least. This win extends the Grizzlies lead to three points a top of the Island standing and the third best overall record in the BCHL.
The Grizzlies welcomed back Zach Urban and Chase Kaiser after suspension and had AP Brody Coulter, marking his second Grizzlies appearance with his first goal.
Credit to Bill Bestwick and Craig Didmon, who had seen what type of team the hosts of the Western Canada Cup in the Clippers where building and have modelled the Grizzlies roster to an extent, to deal with a big physical team like Nanaimo
4 out of 4 points this weekend and three wins in a row, is not only a big lift for the team, fans and management, but, a reminder of how far this team has come since last season.
Go Grizzlies Go!!!!!