The Victoria Grizzlies sailed straight into a perfect storm Saturday night in Merritt and more than survived, picking up their first win of the early B.C. Hockey League season.
Playing their second game in as many nights, and with a bus trip from Prince George the night before, the Grizzlies went into Nicola Valley Memorial Arena — the smallest arena in the BCHL, with a length of 188 feet — still without their No. 1 netminder, Liam Souliere, and minus veteran defenceman Brady MacDonald after the 19-year-old was injured in Prince George on Friday. But the Grizzlies still managed to pick up a 5-1 victory.
The Grizzlies, now 1-2 on the season, got a short-handed goal from Chase McInnis five minutes into the second period to give Victoria its first lead.
The Grizzlies’ fourth line took over in the third. Ben Biester beat Centennials goalie Ryan Winter on a breakaway at the 3:47 mark of the final period. Five minutes later, Californian Biester and Victoria native Michael Hoekstra set up linemate Andrew Amousse for the fellow rookie’s first of the season. Ryan Fisher added a late empty-netter for Victoria.
Joe Howe, playing his third game as Souliere continues to miss time with an injury picked up in preseason, had his best game of the season, making 38 saves. The only shot that beat him came from the stick of Merritt defenceman Olson Werenka on a first-period power play as the Centennials fall to 0-3 on the year.
The Grizzlies now move east to West Kelowna to take on the Warriors today at 2:30 p.m.
LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies will have a few days off next week before heading back out on the road next weekend to visit Vernon on Friday, Salmon Arm on Saturday and Trail on Sunday.