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Better late than never: Grizzlies get their man in Friedmann

MARIO ANNICCHIARICO  / TIMES COLONIST
Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

OCTOBER 27, 2016 09:57 PM

It’s nice to feel wanted and T.J. Friedmann’s appreciation level has certainly increased since joining the Victoria Grizzlies.

The St. Louis native is the latest addition to the B.C. Hockey League’s roster, joining the team that initially began recruiting him out of the Victory Honda U-18 hockey program in Detroit last year.

Instead, the 18-year-old decided to stay closer to home, joining the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, who made the forward a second-round pick in their draft.

After seeing little playing time, fate dealt Friedmann a different hand and he wound up where Grizzlies general manager and head coach Craig Didmon wanted him all along.

“He came out for a skate last April and, at that moment, we offered him a [playing] card. He was drafted by Green Bay, which is close to his home town and a sought after program. He went there for his first option, but he quickly realized that for development, he’d get a good opportunity with us. So we’re glad to have him here,” said Didmon, who traded Sage Englund to Carleton Place in Ontario to make room.

“He gives us offensive depth and he’s a big kid, too. He’s another bigger forward who can score goals and create plays. We think he gives us four lines which can all score.”

So Friedmann joins former Victory Honda teammate and linemate Justin Michaelian on a forward unit, along with Marty Westhaver and will see action on the Grizzlies’ road trip, which begins in Chilliwack tonight and continues to Salmon Arm and Trail over three days.

“They had a good season together last year on the top line and had good chemistry. I’m sure Justin had a bit to do with him getting here,” Didmon said of Friedmann rejoining Michaelian.

Friedmann had 20 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with Victory Honda last season, while Michaelian totalled 11 goals and 15 assists in 32 outings.

“I was drafted high so I wanted to give that a chance. It didn’t really work out so I hit the re-set button. Coach Didmon was still interested in me so it ended up working out well,” said Friedmann, who stands six-foot-three and weighs 175 pounds.

“I’ve got a good spot here. It’s a great group of guys, a great team and I’m excited about getting in here and joining that. There’s a lot of chemistry with Justin. I spent a whole year with him, it worked out really well for us, so it should be an exciting rest of the year.”

But Friedmann isn’t the only newcomer who will be experiencing his first playing time with the Grizzlies this weekend. Backup goalie Tony Rehm, recently acquired from Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, is expected to make his first start in Salmon Arm after watching from the bench in two home games last weekend.

“He had a travel week last week and this week he’s looked good — really big in his net,” said Didmon. “He’s moving well and he knows our defencemen now, so he’s ready to go.”

This is the first lengthy road trip off the Island for the Grizzlies, who are 9-2-2-3.