Grizzlies burst ahead of Clippers
The Victoria Grizzlies cleared a major hurdle in their round one playoff series against the Nanaimo Clippers.
Despite missing a core group of players, the Grizz came out flying with a 9-1 win over their Island rivals in Game 1 on Friday.
Nanaimo played better on Saturday but goalie Victoria Matt Ginn held the fort until the Grizzlies’ offence exploded with a 5-1 lead, eventually winning 5-3.
“That’s what good goalies do,” coach Vic Gervais said, after Saturday night’s game. Above him, the shot clock read 43-22 for Nanaimo. “Good goalies steal your playoff games and we’re just capitalizing when we get the chances.”
Big scorers David Morley and Kyle St. Denis, as well as offensive defenceman Graeme Strukoff topped the list of injured players unavailable in the opening weekend.
Since his late-season arrival, St. Denis scored 12 goals and 12 assists in 13 games. On paper, however, St. Denis’ and Morley’s absences might have had a reverse affect, Gervais said.
“I think it can work against the other team, seeing (those guys) out of the lineup.”
The line of Joel Lowry, Madison Dias and Wes Myron – put together for Saturday night – was too big for the Clippers. The trio battled hard and were a treat to watch, overpowering the Clippers on the forecheck and cycling the puck in the Clippers end.
Dias drove to the net for the Grizzlies second and third goals of the game, jamming both below Charles-Andre Pelletier’s pad -- though the third goal was credited to Michael Colantone.
They were lunch bucket goals that put the Grizzlies’ ahead 3-1 on a night when Nanaimo dominated the stats other than the goal column.
Lowry and Colantone added to the scoring with two goals on pretty efforts: Lowry’s wrister was on a 2-on-1 while Colantone’s tip-in went over Pelletier’s shoulder on a hard pass by Dias.
To their credit, the Clippers made it 5-3 with 10 minutes left in the game, whittling the four goal lead down to two and taking the play to Victoria.
“We knew we just had to stay calm, keep playing hard and things (would go) our way,” Dias said, picking up a goal and three assists on Saturday and three more points on Friday. Dias and Lowry led the BCHL in scoring as of Monday morning with seven points each.
Gervais said Strukoff and St. Denis are day-to-day, expected to be ready later this week, while Dustin Johnson is slated to return from his time away from the team.
“We thought we had bad luck (with injuries) during the regular season but there’s nothing to do but battle through,” Dias said. “Lots of us stepped up.”
If necessary, Games 5 and 7 are Thursday (March 3) and Saturday at Bear Mountain Arena, 7:10 p.m.