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Bulldogs fend off Grizzlies in BCHL opener

Victoria Grizzlies getting a single point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Rylan Ferster’s Victoria Grizzlies came as advertised in Friday night’s B.C. Hockey League season opener at The Q Centre.

Gone are the days of superstar forwards like Alex Newhook, Ellis Rickwood and Matthew Wood. So the 2022-23 version of the Grizzlies is going back to basics: get solid goaltending, check the other team into the ground and count on your top line to get key goals.

It went accoring to plan Friday, sort of, with the Grizzlies getting a single point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs in front of 1,381 fans. The Grizzlies — with just four NCAA committed players compared to 11 on the Bulldogs — got all their offence from the top line of Olivier Picard, Jack Gorton and Owen Bohn, with former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League centre Picard scoring twice, including the tieing goal 1:40 into the third period.

But Raoul Boilard was the lone Bulldogs shooter to score in the shootout, while NCAA North Dakota-bound Hobie Hedquist stopped all five Grizzlies shooters to earn his team the extra point.

Ansel (Gus) Holt, headed to Army of the NCAA next season, provided the solid netminding the Grizzlies are going to require this season, making 33 saves, several of the in-close variety while the Grizzlies killed off all but one of the Bulldogs’ four power plays.

The Grizzlies began the game with some smothering checking as the Bulldogs didn’t get their first shot until the 12-minute mark of the opening period. But after the break, Boilard scored on a two-man advantage just three minutes in and Alberni thought they were off to the races. But Picard got that one back three minutes later when he buried a nice feed from Boston University-committed Gorton to draw Victoria even.

With eight minutes left in the second, Jax Wismer beat Holt from the slot to give Alberni back the lead. And it stayed that way until Picard struck in the third.

Hedquist finished with 27 saves, while the Grizzlies were scoreless on their lone power play.

The Grizzlies now turn their attention to an early inter-conference matchup as the West Kelowna Warriors visit The Q Centre tonight. The Warriors opened the season with a 2-1 victory over the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday night in Duncan.

LOOSE PUCKS: After tonight’s game, the Grizzlies get a week off before hitting the road to Nanaimo next Saturday to face the Clippers. Then they return to The Q Centre next Sunday afternoon to host the Langley Rivermen.

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