The B.C. Hockey League club snapped a short, but bothersome two-game losing streak in a 5-1 victory over the Nanaimo Clippers, satisfying what was a grumpy head coach and general manager Bill Bestwick the last two days.
Bestwick made defencemen Nolan DeJong and Mitch Meek and veteran forward Chase Kaiser healthy scratches to get a point across after back-to-back setbacks, inserting newcomer Kade Pilton into the lineup, as well as affiliated rearguard Brandon Egli.
The Grizzlies, as a unit, received the message loud and clear as the hosts out-shot the Clippers 22-2 in the opening 20 minutes, grabbing a 2-0 lead with a high-tempo game that was sorely lacking in the previous Friday’s 6-4 loss at home to Nanaimo.
“Our team was not happy with our first two games from the break, they set their minds to it and they proved tonight that when we’re in a good mindset we can play with anybody,” said Bestwick.
“We’ve got lots of players, lots of really good players and we were 0-2 so there has to be consequences for our play. I think our team got that message. It wasn’t about their play, it was about us getting people’s attention.”
Outshooting the Clippers 7-0 just 3:47 into the game, the Grizzlies took the game’s first penalty, easily killed it and then struck first on David Mazurek’s unassisted marker at 6:55 of the first period. Leo Fitzgerald then took out the trash on a rebound at 9:24.
Nanaimo’s best chance came when Victoria defenceman Blake Thompson coughed up the puck on a second-period power play, but Grizzlies’ goalie Brady Rouleau got his teammate off the hook on the short-handed breakaway.
Victoria continued to pour the shots on in the second and David Walchuk finally cracked Clippers goaltender Derek Dun's armour to make it 3-0 with 4:17 to go with the shot clock reading 39-6 in the Grizzlies’ favour.
Captain Zach Urban then made it 4-0 on a power play at 18:47 as Pilton drew an assist on the goal.
Pilton, the former Victoria Royals and Regina Pats defenceman, was good, especially since he hasn’t played in about three weeks.
The Grizzlies were also good on the power play, going 2-for-6, before allowing a sloppy 5-on-3 short-handed goal by Greg Fraser at 6:33 of the third as he slid a backhand by Rouleau. The power play did finish 3-for-9.
“It was really unfortunate, 5-on-3, too,” said Bestwick. “I wasn’t happy with that and I thought the first 10-12 minutes of the third we weren’t sharp, but we didn’t give them much and you have to be happy with keeping a team under 17 shots.”
Victoria was solid on the penalty kill, turning away all seven Nanaimo power-play chances.
The game, played before an announced crowd of 1,521, became heated late when Mazurek was plastered from behind by Nanaimo’s Mason Mitchell and Turner Lawson came to the rescue and nailed Mitchell with 6:42 to go. Mitchell and — a few minutes later — Chris Rygus drew majors and game misconducts for blows to the head for the Clippers.
Gerry Fitzgerald made Nanaimo pay with a late power-play goal and the final shots on goal were 53-16 for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies will be back at home Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Powell River Kings.
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