The Victoria Grizzlies got back from Port Alberni late Friday night. And next Friday they’ll be headed right back there.
Thanks to a 4-1 loss to the Nanaimo Clippers in the regular-season finale on Saturday night in front of 1,872 fans at The Q Centre, and a 4-1 Chilliwack Chiefs victory Friday over the Cowichan Valley Capitals, the Grizzlies finished sixth in the Coastal Conference and will open the B.C. Hockey League playoffs on the road against the third-seed Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
The Grizzlies (26-20-5-3) are backing into the playoffs having lost three games in a row, including a 4-0 defeat at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Friday.
The Clippers (37-14-3-0) finish first in the conference and will open the postseason at home against the eighth-seed Langley Rivermen.
Nanaimo, playing without GM and head coach Colin Birkas who was suspended this month pending a Hockey Canada investigation, opened the scoring Saturday and rode the strong goaltending of Pointe-Claire, Que., product Shane Shelest to victory.
The Clippers scored on their first shot on Grizzlies rookie netminder Oliver Auyeung-Asthon as NCAA Bowling Green University-bound Brody Waters tipped in a nifty pass from Princeton University-bound Kai Daniels.
Daniels added his 35th of the season with just two minutes left in the opening period to put the visitors up 2-0 at the break.
Brett Merner and Jeremie Payant struck for the Clippers in the second period.
The Grizzlies had a strong first 20 minutes but got into penalty trouble in the second period, including a five-minute major to Cam Smith for a blow to the head. Victoria killed that off but still couldn’t find a way to solve Shelest until midway through the third when Jack Gorton, headed to Boston University in the fall, finished off a nice feed from Reegan Hiscock.
Auyeung-Ashton finished with 23 saves, while Shelest got the win making 28.
The Grizzlies were again without injured forwards Owen Bohn and Jacksenn Hungle.
LOOSE PUCKS: The other Coastal Conference playoff pairings are No. 2 Surrey against No. 7 Powell River and No. 4 Coquitlam against No. 5 Chilliwack.