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Examining the Victoria Grizzlies 2023-24 season

This past season, the Victoria Grizzlies finished fourth in the Coastal Conference with an overall record of 29-22-1-2. That was good enough for 61 points.

Overall, the team built on its performance from last season and saw improved offensive totals from several players. Players like Chase Pirtle, Luc Pelletier, and Anthony Carone led the team in scoring.

All three players scored more than 40 points. Beneath them were three more players who scored more than 30 points. Nathan King, Reegan Hiscock, and Charlie Gollob were solid offensive contributors.

Guarding the net were a group of solid netminders. Oliver Auyeung-Ashton and Owen Bresson formed the starting goalie tandem. Jack Fialkoff joined the team mid-season.

Related: Grizzlies den member profile: Jack Fialkoff

Before the B.C. Hockey League playoffs started, the Grizzlies announced that Jim Hartshorne purchased a majority share in the franchise. Hartshorne is famous for owning the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars during the 1980s.

To cap it off, the Grizzlies made it to the second round of the Fred Page Cup playoffs for the first time since their run in 2019. This article will cover the Grizzlies 2023-24 season. I’ll start with the outstanding players.

Improved play

As noted above, there was improved offensive play from the Grizzlies. Ten players notched 20 points or more. Compare that to the 2022-23 season when nine players scored more than 20 points.

One player who improved his points total from 2022-23 was Pelletier. Last season, Pelletier notched 30 points and this season, he had 45 points.

Another player who improved his points totals from 2022-23 was Carone. This season he had 42 points, which is 15 more than last.

The addition of Pirtle helped supplement the team’s point production. As a rookie, Pirtle finished the season as the Grizzlies’ top scorer with 52 points in 54 games. It earned him a spot on the BCHL All-Rookie Team.

In goal, Auyeung-Ashton played most of Victoria’s games, despite missing time with an injury. In 25 games, Auyueng-Ashton finished with a 14-11-0 record, a 3.08 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage, and one shutout.

When Auyueng-Ashton was injured, Bresson stepped in and proved a reliable starter. In 29 appearances, Bresson finished with a 14-8-1 record. He also had four shutouts to go along with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

A new majority owner

In March, the Grizzlies announced Hartshorne as their new majority owner. I wrote a profile of Hartshorne in a past article. Former majority owner Ron Walchuk is remaining with the team.

As noted above, Hartshorne owned the Victoria Cougars of the WHL and is currently the majority owner of the Western Lacrosse Association’s Victoria Shamrocks.

Hartshorne’s acquisition of the Grizzlies is expected to close in June.

Making the second round

For the first time in five years, the Grizzlies made the second round of the BCHL playoffs. After knocking out the Nanaimo Clippers in five games, the Grizzlies moved on to face the Surrey Eagles.

Surrey finished the 2023-24 season with the BCHL’s best record and despite their best effort, the Grizzlies were eliminated by the Eagles in six games.

Compared to recent playoff appearances, this year was an improvement. In the 2022 playoffs, the Grizzlies were eliminated by the Langley Rivermen in five games in the first round. Last year, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs swept the Grizzlies in the first round on their way to the Fred Page Cup final.

What happens next?

This off-season, many Grizzlies players are moving on. It’s something I wrote about in a previous article. Several others remain with the team and some of those scheduled to go to college this fall could defer their NCAA commitments.

Bresson and Fialkoff may form the Grizzlies’ new goalie tandem and defenders like Drew Hockley and Maddox Tulacro could form the new defensive core.

Meanwhile, a trio of players might form the Grizzlies’ forward core. Malcolm Green, Tobias Pitka, and Ryan Watt are each eligible to return next season. Hometown forward Landon Mackie can return as well.