VICTORIA 5 (SO)
WEST KELOWNA 4
It was two teams in the bottom third of the standings, but Tuesday night’s game at The Q Centre was billed as a playoff-like game as only four points separated the Victoria Grizzlies and West Kelowna Warriors in the battle for the No. 1 wildcard seed in the B.C. League playoffs.
And that’s exactly what the 914 fans got as the home team roared back late in the third to tie it, then got a Vincent Nardone goal in the shootout to come away with a 5-4 victory.
The win moves the Grizzlies (19-29-1) into sole possession of the first wildcard spot, one point up on the Prince George Spruce Kings and five points up on the Warriors (13-27-8). The first wildcard seed avoids playing the top two teams in the Interior Division — Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters — in the first round of the playoffs and instead opens against the Interior’s third-place team, currently the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
A young group of Warriors — West Kelowna has no 20-year-olds on its roster — gave the Grizzlies all they could handle, but thanks to a tying goal from blue-liner Brady MacDonald with 1:08 left in regulation and netminder Liam Souliere pulled for the extra attacker, the Grizzlies now have three wins and an overtime loss in their last four games.
The Grizzlies came flying out of the gate, taking an early 2-1 lead thanks to power-play goals from Chase McInnis and Henri Schreifels, but the Warriors responded with a two-goal second period to put the Grizzlies on their heels.
Connor Eddy gave the Grizzlies some much-needed life midway through the third with a shorthanded goal. But the Warriors came right back with a power-play goal of their own from Tyler Cristall, his second of the night, with 6:36 left in regulation, setting up MacDonald’s heroics. In the shootout, Souliere stopped all three Warriors shooters. Nardone was the only Grizzlies shooter to beat Victoria native Johnny Derrick in the Warriors’ net.
The Grizzlies now hit the road for four straight games beginning Saturday night in Port Alberni against the Bulldogs.