In four seasons of junior hockey, Marty Westhaver has seen just about everything.
And then there was Friday night at The Q Centre. When the Victoria Grizzlies’ captain walked into the locker-room before the game, there were a bunch of empty lockers. That will happen when seven key players were up in the stands dressed in suits, thanks to injuries or suspension.
Still, the Grizzlies gave the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs all they could handle with Westhaver nearly tying it with 25 seconds left when the 20-year-old rang one off the post before the Grizzlies fell 4-3.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, with that many guys out. It was definitely different,” said Westhaver, who had a four-game point streak snapped Friday, but has 25 points in 29 games.
“But outside that first 10-15 minutes, I’m proud of the way the guys played. We stuck to it and gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
The Grizzlies, who had their four-game, home-ice winning streak snapped, were forced to use three call-ups, two from Junior B and one from major midget, and Johnny Houlding from the Westshore Wolves, Tynan Peacock from the Campbell River Storm and Chase Barlow from the South Island Royals didn’t look out of place.
“It’s tough for a new guy to step in like that so you just tell them to keep it simple and play to their strengths because they were called up for a reason,” Westhaver said.
The news doesn’t get any better today as the Grizzlies play host to the Surrey Eagles. None of the injured players — goaltender Liam Souliere, defencemen Brady MacDonald, Reid Lindsay and James Davenport, and forwards Eddie Yan and Trevor Bishop — are expected back for the 2 p.m. game at The Q Centre. And veteran winger Henri Schreifels will sit out the last of a two-game suspension.
The Eagles (11-16-5), who were in Nanaimo to face the Clippers on Saturday night, will be playing their third game in as many days, having lost in Powell River on Friday night.
“We can’t worry about who’s not playing. We have to come out and work hard from the very start this time and not dig ourselves a hole this time,” added Westhaver.
“We still have a lot of skilled guys playing, so if we stick to the game plan and bring some intensity for the full 60 minutes, we’ll be OK.”
After today’s game, the Grizzlies play a home-and-home set with the Clippers beginning Wednesday night in Nanaimo and then Saturday night at The Q Centre in the Grizzlies’ annual Teddy Bear Toss game.