Home openers aren’t quite the special event they once were in sports.
“They were huge events 20 years ago,” said Victoria Grizzlies GM and head coach Rylan Ferster, who has been hockey a long time.
“We’ve not talked a lot about it.”
That’s because any team that begins the season with three road games has other things on its mind. The Grizzlies took care of business in those fairly well to head into today’s matinee home opener at the Q Centre 2-1. The visiting Cowichan Valley Capitals are 1-2.
Adding an air of poignancy to today’s B.C. Hockey League contest is that it is also the Indigenous Recognition Game in honour of the truth and reconciliation weekend.
“That makes it a big event for us and really special,” said Ferster.
The Grizzlies concluded their season-opening three-game road skein by overcoming a 4-1 deficit Friday night in Powell River to defeat the Kings (0-2) by a 5-4 count as Anderson Chase Pirtle scored twice for Victoria to show why he is committed to the NCAA Div. 1 Cornell Big Red. Reegan Hiscock and Nathan King, committed to NCAA Div. 1 Northeastern University and Merrimack respectively, scored once each and also Tim Busconi.
“That is tough travel and a tough building to win in,” said Ferster.
The Grizzlies started with a loss in Surrey against the Eagles last week but rebounded for a win the next night in Chilliwack against the Chiefs. That, combined with Friday night’s comeback, is telling Ferster a lot about his squad.
“We can weather situations,” he said.
“It says a lot about the character of this young group and has been a good building block for us.”
Meanwhile, homegrown forward Jacksenn Hungle became the 11th Grizzlies player this season to commit to an NCAA Div. 1 school and will be headed next season to 2023 NCAA Frozen Four team Canisius.
“He has been in the league for a while and it was a great move to push to acquire him last season [from the Merritt Centennials],” said Ferster.
Ferster said Hungle was well known to Grizzlies assistant coaches Suneil Karod and Geoff Grimwood, who are from Victoria, and lobbied hard for the trade.
“Jacksenn has been great for us and is a leader with 200-foot skills,” said Ferster.
Cowichan Valley comes over the Malahat today with six NCAA commits, including Jonathan Lanza and Ronan O’Donnell headed to Yale of the Ivy League.