Victoria Grizzlies hope pair of B’s pack some sting

A pair of B’s hope to be buzzing in Victoria this fall.

The Victoria Grizzlies announced Monday they have signed two players from the Hamilton Kilty B’s of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.

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Highly-touted 17-year-old forward Ellis Rickwood and 19-year-old netminder Justin Easter, a conference all-star in the GOJHL this past season, are coming west to the B.C. Hockey League, and Grizzlies general manager and head coach Craig Didmon couldn’t be happier as he starts to rebuild a team that was swept in the first round of the playoff this spring.

“We are thrilled to sign these two top-notch players,” said Didmon, whose team, if all goes as planned post-COVID-19 pandemic, will open training camp on Sept. 1.

“We have been following Ellis and Justin for more than a year now and our scouts and myself expect them to be big additions to our hockey club.”

Rickwood, who turns 18 in July, brings an offensive flair to the Grizzlies. He had an impressive rookie season in the GOJHL, racking up 17 goals and 45 assists in 50 regular-season games for the Kilty B’s, who were early into the second round of their playoffs when their season was halted by the coronavirus.

Rickwood, who hails from Wayne Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford, Ont., was also selected in the first round (10th overall) of the OHL’s U-18 draft by the Peterborough Petes.

“Peterborough showed a lot of interest, but I felt the B.C. Hockey League would be a better fit for me development-wise and my ultimate goal is to get an NCAA Div. 1 scholarship so I’m thrilled to be coming to a great organization like Victoria,” said Rickwood, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 165 pounds.

Much like the most famous person from his hometown, Rickwood is a pass-first kind of player who sees the ice extremely well.

“Passing is probably the strength of my game. I like to generate offence any way I can,” said Rickwood, who came up through Brantford’s minor hockey teams, which are named — you guessed it — the 99ers.

“Of course everyone in Brantford looks up to the Gretzkys and I was fortunate to grow up just a couple blocks from their house.”

And these days, Rickwood has been inside his house a lot thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. But he’s making the most of it.

“I’m doing a lot of exercises inside and while I don’t have a lot of weights, the Grizzlies fitness trainer has sent me some great body-weight exercises to do so I’m staying in pretty good shape and hopefully we can get on the ice soon.”

Goaltender Easter, who hails from Burlington, Ont., has been trying to get outside as much as possible to stay in shape.

“I’m lucky to live close to a high school so I go down to the track and train and do a lot of cycling so it hasn’t been too bad,” said Easter.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound netminder is coming off his best season of hockey. He played 30 regular season games while posting a 2.26 goals-against average and a league-best save percentage of .927. And he didn’t slow up in the post-season, posting a 1.50 GAA and .964 save percentage in six games.

“I was really happy with my season and especially in the playoffs when I was seeing 45 or 50 shots so I was disappointed when they told us we had to stop playing,” Easter said.

“And hopefully I can carry the momentum over to the Grizzlies because I hear great things about the team they’re building and the city and organization so I can’t wait to get out there.”

The addition of Easter gives the Grizzlies two netminders now as Nanaimo native Blake Wood will be returning for his second season.

“We now have a great goaltending combo with two solid goaltenders who can both be No. 1s so we feel that’s an area of strength for us now,” said Didmon.

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