Victoria Grizzlies claw back on Nanaimo Clippers

The two teams are about to get real familiar with each other, and a banged-up, depleted bunch of Victoria Grizzlies sent a message to the Island Division-leading Nanaimo Clippers, that they’re not ready to go into hibernation just yet.

Missing six players to injury and another to suspension, the Grizzlies fell behind early and then fought back with a key third-period power-play goal to defeat the Clippers 3-1 on Wednesday night at Frank Crane Arena.

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After Steven Agriogianis opened the scoring for Nanaimo midway through the first period, the Clippers (22-9-3) looked to be ready to pull away, but Grizzlies captain Marty Westhaver had other thoughts. The veteran took a nice feed from Cody Monds and beat Jordan Naylor with a high wrister to draw Victoria even just two minutes into the middle frame. And just three minutes into the third, veteran Henri Schreifels, returning after serving a two-game suspension, blasted a shot from the faceoff dot past Naylor to give the Grizzlies (12-23) the lead for good. Bryce Anderson added an empty-netter with 22 seconds left. Blake Wood made 36 saves to record the win for Victoria.

Missing due to injuries were goaltender Liam Souliere, defencemen Brady MacDonald, James Davenport and Reid Lindsay, and forwards Eddie Yan and Trevor Bishop. The Grizzlies also were without rookie Connor Eddy, who has been suspended two games for multiple game misconducts.

That forced the Grizzlies to again use three call-ups as Desmond Arthurs (Victoria Cougars) and Tynan Peacock (Campbell River Storm) from the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, and Chase Barlow from the major-midget South Island Royals, were called into duty.

Wednesday’s game marked the first of four contests between the two teams in the next 10 days. The clubs will play again on Saturday night at The Q Centre, and then play another home-and-home set next Friday and Saturday before the teams break for Christmas.

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