The fans eagerly anticipated a win from their Victoria Grizzlies and Mokhtari gave them what they desired in the 2-1 victory as The Q Centre faithful erupted 57 seconds into the second OT of Game 7 against the Powell River Kings to become Island Division champions.
“Hey, I mean, I only score when they really count,” Mokhtari said jokingly when needled about needing 12 playoff games and a couple of extra periods to finally collect his first post-season goal.
“Just wrist it on net and hope for the best, you know. Sometimes you just have to put it on net. That’s what we talked about. In overtime, you just never know what’s going to happen — one shot is all it takes.”
The second-year Grizzly, who recently accepted a scholarship to attend Colorado College in two years, lifted any frustrations he was showing in regard to getting his first B.C. Hockey League post-season goal.
The speedy Mokhtari celebrated by turning back towards his teammates, dropping to his knees for a quick two-second slide and a pair of fist pumps before getting back up to be mobbed by his charging teammates.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for him, his teammates, GM and head coach Craig Didmon or the largest crowd to attend a Grizzlies game this season.
“It was unreal to have that kind of support out there tonight,” said Mokhtari. “To hear the building erupt when we finally won was just a surreal experience.”
“You couldn’t ask for a better finish. It was great to see such a great crowd out because it is exciting hockey,” echoed Didmon. “Everybody is going to go home and say, ‘Yeah, it’s good hockey.’ Right now, it’s just don’t get too high.”
It might take some time coming down, actually, after a seven-game affair that included three overtime games, with the first and last ones both double-overtime outcomes.
“We knew going in that we had first in the regular season, but we also knew that [Powell River] had experience and that they were hungry because they were knocked out in the Island final last year. They had all the parts. Unfortunately, one team doesn’t move on,” said Didmon.
The Grizzlies now face the Chilliwack Chiefs in the best-of-seven Coastal Conference final, which will take the customary 2-2-1-1-1 route starting Friday and Saturday in Chilliwack; returning Tuesday and a week today in Colwood; and then, if necessary, April 7 away; April 8 at home; and April 10 away.
The two teams split their season series, Victoria losing 3-1 at home and winning 4-3 in overtime on the mainland.
“They’re a good hockey club. They got to watch us,” Didmon said of Chilliwack scouting the last couple of games. “They just knocked off a team [Wenatchee] that was made for the regular season and now we’re going to go after them. We’re going to show them what a playoff team looks like.”
It’s the second time in four years that the Grizzlies have reached the league semifinals. Victoria lost all three games it played in what was then a round-robin format among three teams in the 2013-14 semis.
The Penticton Vees will take on the Vernon Vipers in the other BCHL semifinal and should the Grizzlies and Vees advance, Victoria would automatically qualify for the Western Canada Cup, as Penticton will host the tournament April 29-May 7.