Weekend Preview: Victoria Grizzlies Hit the Road

The early 2019-20 schedule is certainly not friendly to the Victoria Grizzlies. They spend the first seven games of the season on the road due to their home rink, The Q Centre, being preoccupied with their other tenant’s Mann Cup chase.

The Western Lacrosse Association’s Victoria Shamrocks have the building rented out, but have already lost the senior men’s Canadian lacrosse championship before the Grizzlies have even played their second game this season. Not only that, the Grizz have a long week to wait to play another game after they were beaten soundly 8-2 at the hands of the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night, followed by two straight weekends of three games in three nights.

Luckily for them, there is no time to dwell on past performances as the entire focus of the team will be doing what they love: playing hockey.

Friday, September 13 – Victoria Grizzlies (0-1) @ Prince George Spruce Kings (0-1-1) – 7:00 PM

Last Game: Surrey 4 – Prince George 3 (OT) – September 8

Player to Watch: LW Carter Cochrane – the Victoria native is playing his first game against his hometown team and should have extra motivation to have a big game against the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies visit the reigning BCHL and Western Canada champion Prince George Spruce Kings for the first time since they were swept in the Semi-Finals of the 2018-19 playoffs. This season hasn’t started the way that Spruce Kings coach Alex Evin would have liked after dropping the first two games at home against the Surrey Eagles. The team is younger this season, losing many of the players that helped them capture the Fred Page Cup, but their young guys have performed well so far.

Led by 16-year-old Fin Williams, the University of Michigan committed forward has two goals and three points in the first two games and looks to be a future star in this league. 19-year-old ‘keeper Jett Alexander comes with an impressive resume from his time in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, so the odds are that he will rebound and play lights out against the visiting Grizzlies.

This is a game that Victoria needs to win, or at least play a whole heck of a lot better than it did against Cowichan.

A victory, whether it be moral or otherwise, will go a long way in dictating how the rest of the weekend will go. Although Joe Howe played well in his one game, a healthy Liam Souliere should make a difference.

Saturday, September 14 – Victoria Grizzlies (0-1) @ Merritt Centennials (0-1) – 7:00 PM

Last Game: Wenatchee 3 – Merritt 1 – September 6

Next Game: vs. Penticton – September 13

Player to Watch: D Talon Zakall – the Merritt-born defenseman is already in his second season with the Centennials at the age of 17. The sophomore has a bigger role and although he may not show up on the scoresheet, look for him to play big in front of his home crowd.

The first of two meetings on the season between these two teams, the Grizzlies visit Nicola Valley Memorial Arena where they have not won a game since the 2015-16 season. Both teams will be in tough, having played the night before and  hungry to come out of this matchup with a victory in the young season.

Merritt goaltender Ryan Winter had an excellent game against Wenatchee on September 6, and the product of Owen Sound has all the tools to frustrate the young Grizzlies shooters. There aren’t many nights where they face a weak goaltender in this league and this Saturday night matchup is no different. Depending on the kind of goaltending performance they receive from their own goalie, this could be a low scoring affair.

Sunday, September 15 – Victoria Grizzlies (0-1) @ West Kelowna Warriors (0-3) – 2:30 PM

Last Performance: Salmon Arm 4 – West Kelowna 1 – September 8

Next Game: @ Langley – September 13

Player to Watch: G Brock Baier – in his second season in West Kelowna, the 20-year-old goaltender has had a shaky start in his first stint as the starter. He will need to have a big game in this early season to help turn the ship around for the Warriors.

Although currently sitting last in the BCHL at 0-3 (and could be 0-4 by the time Sunday rolls around), the Warriors certainly have not been a terrible team in any of these games.

Their first game against the powerhouse Vernon Vipers was tied for the majority of the game until a late third-period goal by the visitors. Their second game, against Wenatchee, was another one-goal game decided late, and the last game was the product of a team playing their third game in three nights. Now, West Kelowna is the fresh team playing Victoria in the same situation. You would think it would be easy pickings for the Warriors, but this could be a big statement game for the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies will have their heart and conditioning put to the test this weekend. They are carrying three extra players on this road trip, so everybody should have a chance to impress Head Coach Craig Didmon, giving him a better idea on who he wants in his starting lineup for next weekend.

They play another three games in three nights starting September 20 against Vernon and are back at the Q Centre for their home opener on September 28 against Powell River.