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Victoria Grizzlies eye victories on and off the ice

It’s the kind of off-ice victory that reverberates in the B.C. Hockey League, especially when it comes to recruiting.
The Victoria Grizzlies logo. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

It’s the kind of off-ice victory that reverberates in the B.C. Hockey League, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Former two-season Victoria Grizzlies goaltender Matthew Galajda of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish is among the 19 BCHL alumni nominated for the 2021-22 Hobey Baker Award as NCAA Div. 1 player of the year. Fan voting concludes March 6, when the 10 finalists will be announced.

“It’s absolutely important in recruiting,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon.

That’s because recruits are hockey savvy, he added: “They know and they bring up alumni [in the NCAA and the NHL] before we even mention it. Matthew Galajda is just our latest example. He was solid, consistent and always worked hard. He had a pro attitude from the day he got here. Hopefully, he gets a shot in the NHL.”

The current Grizzlies, meanwhile, return tonight in Powell River against the Kings following three postponed games due to COVID-19 protocols.

“There might be a little rust but the guys seem refreshed,” said Didmon. “They are just happy to be back and skating.”

The Grizzlies were allowed to return to practice Monday following a five-day halt to all hockey-related activities.

The Grizzlies (14-14) are considered to have a potent roster, which makes their .500 record less than what was perhaps expected.

“We are back close to being healthy and that is going to be the key to have a good second half of the season,” said Didmon.

“Discipline and staying out of the box is also a big factor for us [the Grizzlies are second only to the last-place Cowichan Valley Capitals in BCHL penalty minutes].”

The visiting Grizzlies will be looking to extend their season mastery over the Kings (10-15-2) tonight. Victoria has won both meetings this season against Powell River, 6-4 and 4-1.

Although winners of two consecutive games, the Grizzlies are 3-7 over their last 10 games, but pre-hiatus stats now seem almost irrelevant. The road, meanwhile, has not been kind to the Grizzlies with a 5-9 record away from The Q Centre.

Powell River seems on the rise and has seven players committed to NCAA Div. 1 schools, including Zak Brice to Arizona State, Mark D’Agostino to UConn, Dylan Finlay and Karter McNarland to Vermont, Jason Marsella to Yale and Kaleb Nelson to Providence. The Grizzlies have nine players headed to NCAA Div. 1.

“The Kings are a young club with speed and we are going to have to use our own speed against them,” said Didmon.

ICE CHIPS: Six BCHL players, including goaltender Hobie Hedquist of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, were named this week to Central Scouting’s midterm rankings list for the 2022 NHL draft.