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Island-rival Bulldogs offer Grizzlies helping hand, but only off the ice

The B.C. Hockey League is ­facing the deluge united.
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The B.C. Hockey League is ­facing the deluge united.

With the Victoria Grizzlies inviting in its players’ moms and dads from across North America on the long-planned parents weekend, the club was ­suddenly looking at a dark ­building tonight with the ­Cranbrook Bucks unable to make it due to many of the Interior ­highways still being impassable.

Enter the Alberni Valley ­Bulldogs, who agreed to switch their scheduled Jan. 2 game against the Grizzlies to tonight at The Q Centre. It is among 19 game changes announced this week by the BCHL, ­following the eight schedule changes announced last week.

“We were able to lend a helping hand by shifting dates,” said Bulldogs president and governor David Michaud.

“We are rivals on the ice, but partners off the ice and know what an empty rink would mean to a team on a weekend like this with parents coming in to watch. We all know the situation with the roads in B.C. Also, we went through something like this before during the ­ammonia leak [in the Alberni Valley ­Multiplex which caused game ­postponements for the Bulldogs in November of 2019].”

The teams met Wednesday night in Port Alberni with the Bulldogs (9-6-2) prevailing 5-3 over the Grizzlies (11-7) to end Victoria’s three-game winning run while halting Alberni’s three-game losing run.

“That was a good bounce back game for us,” said Michaud.

“I like our group a lot. There is buy-in from the veterans and newcomers alike.”

He sees a real scrap in the Coastal Conference.

“It’s going to be a dog fight on any given night, pardon the pun,” said Michaud.

“Victoria is competitive with the best. Nanaimo is ­out-performing expectations and is a tough out. Langley is there, too.”

Alberni Valley and ­Victoria will both get see where they stand against the Coastal ­Conference-leading ­Rivermen (10-3-3), with the Bulldogs ­meeting ­Langley on Saturday night in Port Alberni and the Grizzlies taking on the ­Rivermen in a Sunday matinee at The Q Centre.

“It’s a very competitive league as a whole in the two ­conferences,” said Michaud.

He likes the return to the ­conference format from the ­divisional format, which ­featured a separate Island ­Division.

“Seeding 1 to 8 lends more excitement than seeding 1 to 4,” Michaud said.

“Speaking with my governor’s hat on, it avoids, for example, a Bulldogs-Grizzlies match-up in the first round of the playoffs, which would mean a good team guaranteed to be eliminated early.”

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will be missing 16-year-old rookie prodigy and BCHL second leading scorer Matthew Wood for the second straight game. The Nanaimo product is in Ottawa with the top U-17 players in the country selected for the Capital City Challenge tournament today through Wednesday to take on the Canadian women’s national team to help it prepare for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Grizzlies will likely also be without forward Connor Eddy and his 21 points in 15 games as he remains out with an injury.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com