It looks as though the Victoria Grizzlies' goaltending picture is becoming a lot more clearer.
The remainder of the team will also be sorted out over the next 96 hours, becoming less fuzzy each day.
The Grizzlies, who faced the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on the road Wednesday night in pre-season play and were beaten 4-0, seem prepared to hand the netminding duties to Brady Rouleau, who general manager Bill Bestwick traded for over the off-season, which is no surprise.
But his partner in crime in the crease is expected to be Mike Stiliadis, who Bestwick was attempting to finalize a deal for on Wednesday from the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. The 18-year-old Woodbridge, Ont., native had permission to skate with the Grizzlies.
Stiliadis more than responded to the challenge, starting Tuesday's 4-1 exhibition win against Nanaimo and, by all accounts, was impressive, allowing the one goal but stating his case clearly before Rouleau mopped up.
"There was nothing not to like," said Bestwick. "His crease management was really good. His positional play was sound. His puckhandling was poised and calm. He was very, very cool in the net and he looked very comfortable. Laterally, he is exceptional."
Bestwick, who was hoping to finalize the deal for Stiliadis on Wednesday, is also down to the short strokes on the remainder of the club.
"For some kids, the auditioning process is coming to a conclusion. As all teams, you like to get to your roster as swiftly as possible, but at the same time the decisions become more and more difficult," Bestwick said prior to the game in Port Alberni.
"[Wednesday night] might be a final curtain call. It might define kids who remain and kids who might be in a position to move on, forward or relocate."
Bestwick was still trying to work deals as he whittled down his roster. Injuries or late commitments to NCAA programs and the Western Hockey League changes the dynamics, he said. Even an impending National Hockey League lockout could provide more 20-year-olds looking for places to play.
"It will certainly go down to the bitter end for some," said Bestwick, who has been impressed by local younger players who have stated their case. "The kids have been very impressive. There's a long list of strong, local candidates who are real close. It might not be about what they do or don't do, it might be about a position of depth and experience.
"Our job is to bring the best players to camp and make these difficult decisions. I think we've been very upfront and honest with our kids. I think Alec Dillon, in goal, is young and needs to play in an accelerated position where he gets more shots."
Defencemen Garrett Stankoven and Mitch Meek have been solid, as have forwards like Shawn McBrde and Justin Polischuck.
"There are lots of kids right there and it's up to us to decide if we need size or youth or speed or grit in their chosen position," said Bestwick.
The Grizzlies round out their pre-season at home on Sunday at Bear Mountain Arena at 1 p.m. against the Powell River Kings. Admission is $5.
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