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Victoria Grizzlies vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs: A decade of rivalry

 

(This article was originally published on Mar. 10, 2021)

Aside from the Powell River Kings, the Victoria Grizzlies have developed another close rivalry with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

Their rivalry stretches back to when the Bulldogs first arrived in Port Alberni back in 2002 after four seasons in Burnaby. Since then, the Grizz and Dogs have met six times in the playoffs, including four times in the last decade.

While I earlier talked about Victoria’s rivalry with Powell River, the Grizzlies’ rivalry with Alberni Valley is a bit different. Aside from 2013, these two teams have always faced off in the first round. They’ve matched up so often, it compares to the Boston and Toronto playoff matchups in the Stanley Cup playoffs

The Maple Leafs have played the Bruins several times in the first round, including in two of the last three seasons. Toronto has often taken control of these series only to see it slip away. This comparison perfectly describes the Grizzlies and Bulldogs rivalry.

Alberni Valley iced several good teams over the years and the Bulldogs even took early leads in their playoff series against the Grizzlies. However, Victoria always managed to find a way to come back.

With this article, I’ll highlight four playoff series between the Grizzlies and Bulldogs. There is the 2013 second round series, and the 2014, 2018, and 2019 first round series’.¬†

2013 Fred Page Cup playoffs

During the regular season, the Grizzlies finished first in the Island Division with 76 points. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs finished third with 65 points.

Victoria matched-up with fourth place Powell River in the first round and the Grizzlies knocked off the Kings in five games.

 

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs faced the Nanaimo Clippers in round one. Alberni Valley knocked out the second place Clippers in five games and moved on to face the Grizzlies.

In another surprise upset, Alberni Valley defeated Victoria in five games.

Victoria built an early 2-1 series lead before Alberni Valley won two close games to wrap up the series. Game four saw the Bulldogs win 4-3 with Marlon Sabo potting the overtime winner. Alberni Valley took game five 3-2 in overtime with Mak Barden playing hero for the Bulldogs.

Afterward, the Bulldogs moved on to face the Surrey Eagles in the semifinals. The Eagles swept Alberni in four games and then faced Penticton in the Fred Page Cup final.

In the final, Surrey knocked off the Vees in seven games.

2014 Fred Page Cup playoffs

Victoria and Alberni Valley faced off again during the 2014 playoffs. Like the previous year, the Grizzlies finished first place on the Island with 82 points. Meanwhile, Alberni Valley finished fourth in the division with 51 points.

This time, the Grizzlies took on the role of the Bruins as Alberni Valley emerged with an early 3-1 series lead. The Bulldogs lost that lead when Victoria clawed its way back and won the next three games.

Game seven saw the Grizzlies take the series in double overtime and Shawn McBride scored the clinching goal.

After that series, the Grizzlies faced the Kings in round two. They defeated them in six games and moved on to the semi-final round robin, but did not advance to the Fred Page Cup final.

2018 Fred Page Cup playoffs

During the 2017-18 season, the Grizzlies once again finished first in the Island Division with 72 points. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs once again finished fourth, this time with 43 points. Like the 2014 playoffs, the two teams met in the first round.

The Bulldogs emerged with an early 3-0 series lead, but despite the deficit, the Grizzlies rallied back and won the series in game seven.

After that victory, the Grizzlies advanced to face the Kings in the second round. Victoria seemed to be out of gas and Powell River defeated the Grizz in five games.

2019 Fred Page Cup playoffs

After the 2018 series, the Grizzlies and Bulldogs met yet again in the 2019 post-season.

Buoyed by NHL first round draft pick Alex Newhook, Victoria finished first in the Island Division with 76 points. Like clockwork, the Bulldogs finished fourth with 45 points. Unlike past series though, the Grizzlies swept Alberni Valley in four games this time.

The Grizz moved on to face the Kings in round two and after winning in seven games, Victoria faced the Prince George Spruce Kings in the third round. The Spruce Kings swept the Grizzlies in four games and moved on to the final, where they defeated the Vernon Vipers.

While they didn’t meet during the 2020 playoffs, the rivalry got rekindled during the recent Island Cup. It’s something I wrote about in a previous article and proves the Victoria Grizzlies and Alberni Valley Bulldogs rivalry is unique among the teams from the former Island Division.