When it comes to big games, Nic Renyard has had a close-up view on numerous occasions.
The 18-year-old goaltender, acquired in June by the B.C. Hockey League’s Victoria Grizzlies, backed up Victoria product Chad Katunar last season with the Penticton Vees en route to the BCHL final. Renyard was also on the scene as an affiliate player the year before as the Vees won the national RBC Cup.
The Grizzlies hope the Victoria-born Renyard can turn that big-game exposure into wins as they try to improve on a successful 2012-13 season that saw them upset in the second round of the playoffs by the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
“Experience is on Renyard’s side (from) Penticton,” says Grizzlies assistant coach Craig Didmon, who coached the six-footer in midget with the South Island Thunderbirds. “Plus (being back home), he’s in an environment where he’s comfortable.”
Renyard, who posted a 2.23 goals against average with one shutout in 20 games with the Vees last year, believes his time in Penticton taught him about what it takes to reach the final.
“A lot of it’s about taking care of your body every day, so that when you get into the playoffs you’re ready,” he says. “The longer you can stay without injury or sickness, the more you can take advantage come playoff time.”
With a relatively young lineup in place for the Grizzlies, Renyard hopes to bring a leadership quality to the team.
Didmon likes the team’s depth in goal, calling backup Alec Dillon, 17, a “skilled, athletic goalie.” The six-foot-five West Shore Wolves junior B alumnus, also a local product and former midget teammate of Renyard, plans to battle his friend for playing time this season. Despite limited exposure in the BCHL, Dillon recently committed to play for the NCAA’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Engineers in 2015-16.
“Going in, I know Nic’s the older one and clearly the starter,” says Dillon, who served as backup with the Grizz for three games last year. “There’s no taking games off. You have to make the most of your opportunities at this level or you get dropped down.”
Despite the on-ice competition, the goalies appreciate each other.
“He’s a bit of a different kind of character,” Renyard says of Dillon, the more outgoing, vocal member of the goalie tandem. “But we can build off each other and we push each other in practice. It’s a good learning partnership.”
Overall, the Grizzlies have nine returnees this season, including the electrifying Fitzgerald triplets, Myles, Leo and Gerry, who are three of five 20-year-olds on the roster.
The high-energy linemates, who finished 1-2-3 in team scoring last season, will once again be key to the club’s offence and power play.
“They don’t take losing lightly,” Didmon says of the trio. “Being 20 year olds, they want to finish this off with a championship.”
The Grizz at home: Bring on the Clippers, Bulldogs and Chiefs
Oct. 11 – Grizzlies vs. Nanaimo, Bear Mountain Arena, 7:15 p.m .Oct. 18 – Grizzlies vs. Alberni, Bear Mountain Arena, 7:15 p.m.Oct. 20 – Grizzlies vs. Chilliwack, Bear Mountain Arena, 2 p.m.Oct. 25 – Grizzlies vs. Nanaimo, Bear Mountain Arena, 7:15 p.m.