The pipeline from the Victoria Grizzlies’ goal crease to the one inside Cornell University’s Lynah Rink is going to continue to flow for a few more years at least.
While former Grizzlies netminder Matthew Galajda has backstopped the Ithaca, New York-based Big Red to the No. 2 spot in the most recent NCAA hockey rankings, current Grizzlies goaltender Joe Howe is now the Cornell goalie of the future after committing to the Ivy League school for the fall of 2021. Galajda is in his third year at Cornell and is 6-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average this season.
“I actually had breakfast with Matt when I went to the school for my [official] visit and he had nothing but great things to say about the school and the hockey program at Cornell so that helped with making my decision,” Howe said at practice this week as the Grizzlies prepared for a double-header in Powell River this weekend with games against the Kings tonight and Saturday.
“And of course he asked how everyone was in Victoria. He loved his time with the Grizzlies.”
The 18-year-old Howe, who plans to study business at Cornell, came west from a strong season at Upper Canada College prep school and he sees the NCAA as the next big step. The Barrie, Ont., product narrowed his choices down to Cornell and Boston College and the final decision wasn’t easy.
“I visited BC as well and obviously it’s a great hockey school with [NHL first-round draft pick and former Grizzlies captain] Alex [Newhook] there as well, but I thought Cornell was a little better fit for myself hockey and educational wise.”
In his rookie season with a young Grizzlies team, Howe is 6-12 with a 3.66 GAA and .904 save percentage. His 1,083 minutes played are sixth most in the B.C. Hockey League.
“Joe has been solid for us in a lot of key games this year,” said Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon, whose club is coming off a 6-3 win over the Merritt Centennials last Sunday.
“He’s been in net for us in a lot of tough situations and has come up with some brilliant performances. He has great potential and you can see why a program like Cornell has come calling.”
At 8-19, the Grizzlies are last in the Island Division and the team just six points in front of them happens to be the Kings (11-14). It’s the first trip of the season to Powell River for the Grizzlies, who now need points any way they can get them.
“It’s a big weekend for us,” said Howe. “I’ve never played there before but the guys who have say it’s a noisy barn and fun to play in so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“We weren’t happy with the way we played against Merritt, even though we won, so if we can correct some things coming out of that one, I think we’ll have something to build on and we’ll be able to string a few wins together. We have some young guys who are ready to break out so hopefully they can this weekend.”
After the pair of games in Powell River, the Grizzlies return home for consecutive games against the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Tuesday and Friday at The Q Centre.
LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies are slowly getting healthy. Defenceman Reid Lindsay and forward Connor Eddy are expected back in the lineup tonight. Still out with injuries are netminder Liam Souliere, defenceman Brady MacDonald and forward Eddie Yan.