David Walchuk has been battling a wrist injury for most of the year, but the hands looked just fine on Saturday night.
The Victoria Grizzlies forward scored a pair of goals to pace the home side to a 3-1 victory over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, sending 1,440 fans home happy from Bear Mountain Arena.
“It was a real treat,” said Walchuk, who drew the puck to his backhand for his second of the evening at 7:18 of the third period. “I’ve been out for a couple of games so coming back and getting a couple with key guys out is awesome.
“It’s nice to support the team like that,” added Walchuk, who jumped on a loose puck and buried it by Alberni Valley goaltender Jay Deo at 3:17 of the first period, after a late start to the game.
Pearce Eviston and Nolan DeJong drew assists on the play that got the anxious fans out of their seats.
The Grizzlies were forced to play a lot of the opening 20 minutes short-handed as they were tagged with three minor penalties, including a check to the head minor and 10-minute misconduct for Eviston, who finished the night with two assists.
Leo Fitzgerald banged in a rebound in to make it 2-0 at 2:47 of the second period, but Chase Van Allen came right back with a power-play goal at 4:29 as his point shot deflected off a Victoria defenceman and by goalie Brady Rouleau.
It was the Bulldogs’ fourth power play chance of the night, compared to zero for the Grizzlies, at that point.
Victoria was without two of the three Fitzgerald triplets as Gerry and Myles remain out. Mark McLellan and Jaden Schmeisser also sat out. Cole Pickup and Shawn McBride drew in as affiliated players and defenceman Kade Pilton returned from fighting off a virus for the last week.
“It was a win with adversity, too,” said Grizzlies general manager and head coach Bill Bestwick.
“Once again we had a few players out of uniform and it was good to see guys step up.”
In particular, Walchuk, who played the role of power forward very well.
“Two really good goals, too. They weren’t off shinpads or anything. Good finish,” said Bestwick.
The Grizzlies, now 33-11-0-6, were coming off a weekend in which they dropped two of three results on the mainland.
Victoria remains in first place overall in the B.C. Hockey League and got some help as the Penticton Vees and Surrey Eagles — both on its heels — lost.
The Grizzlies have a home-and-home series against Cowichan Valley this coming weekend, beginning Friday in Victoria and on the road at The Stick in Duncan on Saturday.