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After layoff, Liam Souliere eager to lead Victoria Grizzlies

Liam Souliere will play his first home game for the Grizzlies tonight.

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
JANUARY 9, 2020 10:04 PM

Not even having eight pucks go by him could spoil the excitement and relief Liam Souliere felt last Saturday when the Victoria Grizzlies netminder made his long-awaited B.C. Hockey League debut after being injured in preseason in early September.

“I know they got eight, but man it was fun to be back in there and facing shots and just being in a game again,” Souliere said as he looked back on last Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the Interior Division-leading Vees in Penticton.

“And I felt pretty good. We lost but Penticton is a very talented team and it was a great atmosphere with 3,000 people watching. It was just really good to be back.”

Souliere rebounded the next day, backstopping the Grizzlies to a 4-3 win in Surrey against the Eagles.

“[I] felt much better on Sunday and started to get my timing back,” said the 20-year-old netminder from Blainville, Que., who was named the top goalie in the Central Canadian Hockey League last season after posting a 2.13 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 37 games for the Brockville Braves.

“And you can practice all you want, but the best thing for your timing is game action so I expect to get better and better from here on out.”

Souliere, who played for Team Canada East at last year’s World Junior A Challenge, will head to the NCAA and Penn State next fall and he says the Nittany Lions coaching staff have been nothing but patient with him this season.

“They’ve kept in touch with me and expect me to have a strong second half in the BCHL now and I expect that from myself as well.”

Souliere is expected to get his third straight start in the Grizzlies’ net tonight when Victoria hosts the Cowichan Valley Capitals at The Q Centre. Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon ironed out his crowded crease situation on Tuesday when he sent rookie Joe Howe to the league-leading Coquitlam Express for future considerations, leaving Souliere and 18-year-old rookie Blake Wood to tend the crease the rest of the way.

“It was tough to see Joe go because we had become good friends,” Souliere said. “But it’s part of hockey, we all know that, and Joe is going to a very good team so we all wish him luck.”

The Grizzlies (16-26-0) will see the Capitals (25-12-5) for the first time since Nov. 29 and Souliere expects another tough Island Division battle.

“They’re a good team that always plays hard and now they’re competing for first in the division so they’re going to be hungry,” Souliere said.

“And we had a good finish to our road trip and I think we can grab that fourth spot for playoffs so it should be a fun game.”

The fun won’t only be on the ice. Before the game, the Grizzlies will honour former Victoria junior standout and current St. Louis Blues forward Tyler Bozak by retiring his old No. 11 jersey. The Stanley Cup champion has sent along a video thank-you that will be played on The Q Centre’s big screen.

“It should be an exciting night because Tyler had a great career with the Grizzlies,” Souliere said.

“It’s really cool to see a guy go from the Grizzlies to winning a Stanley Cup. I mean, that’s what all of us dream for and to see someone do it is quite amazing.”

Following tonight’s game, the Grizzlies will host the Powell River Kings on Saturday night at The Q Centre.

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