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BCHL Grizzlies move forward after a tough end to playoffs

Goaltender Dillion focuses back on school, friends, as he awaits 2014 NHL entry draft
Victoria Grizzlies goaltender Alec Dillon makes a save during the 2013-14 playoffs at The Q Centre. Dillon

The end result wasn’t what they wanted, but the Victoria Grizzlies are looking toward next season with optimism.

Having watched his team absorb three tough B.C. Hockey League semifinal round robin losses, the last of which was a 4-3 triple-overtime decision April 3 to Coquitlam, Grizzlies’ head coach Craig Didmon reflected on the takeaway from the playoff run.

“I mean, it was a tough series,” he said of the semis, which saw the smaller, but nimble Grizzlies lose 5-4 but outplay a big, tough Vernon team and drop two games to the high-scoring Express.

“You look at it a few days later and realize it was a tough run for the boys. Maybe a different type of series might have done better for us, but we outshot the opponent every game. And we continued to play our game. I think we started to get a little bit of fatigue because of the gruelling first two rounds.”

Looking at next year, he said the Grizzlies have a “great group, a really good core coming back,” led by the likes of Mark McLellan and Jessie Schwartz.

The team loses the Fitzgeralds (Gerry, Leo and Myles), defencemen Jaden Schmeisser and Chris Albertini and forward Travis Stephens to graduation, but younger players developed well, Didmon said.

“This is a group that’s learned a lot this year. I think we’ve got a good well-rounded squad looking at coming back next year.”

Goalies Alec Dillon, 17, and Nick Renyard, 19, are eligible to return, but their careers may take a different direction next season (see below). Dillon voiced disappointment about this season, but said good things came out of the Grizzlies’ experience.

“We thought we had the team that could have gone farther,” he said. “From where we were as (a club) two years ago, when they traded away the whole team and there was talk of folding, we’ve come a long way. This season has helped out the organization a lot – it makes players want to come here and play.”

Young goalie was watched through BCHL season

Alec Dillon felt a muted glare of the spotlight this season as he went about his business with the Victoria Grizzlies.

The 6-foot-5, 170-pound goaltender was often in the crosshairs for National Hockey League scouts parked on the edges of BCHL rinks, and as such, he finds himself rated 13th among North American goalies by Central Scouting.

“I never really worried about it throughout the whole season.” At the same time, he said, “I’m excited to see if I (get drafted) and I’m honoured to be ranked.”

He’s taking a bit of time off to “hang out with my friends,” concentrate on Grade 12 at Belmont secondary and go through “the whole prom and grad thing.”

Dillon is committed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and plans to attend in 2015. For now, the plan is to finish out his junior career as a Grizzlie, but he’ll wait until the June NHL entry draft draft to make that decision.

Fellow Grizzlies netminder Nick Renyard has had some interest expressed in him by Canadian post-secondary teams.