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Grizzlies’ hard-hitting Nolan ready for Bulldogs

OCTOBER 21, 2017 11:00 PM

Up 2-1 in their third straight game, the Victoria Grizzlies didn’t want to see this B.C. Hockey League outing end with similar results to the previous two, both losses.

So they strapped up their work boots and turned in a solid third period of work in Friday’s 2-1 win over Coquitlam.

The Grizzlies need to carry that through to the Alberni Valley today as they face the Bulldogs on the road at 2 p.m.

Friday’s win was the result of a good, physical final 20 minutes, led by 19-year-old rookie Ryan Nolan of Chicago.

Nolan was a human pinball, using his six-foot-two, 200-pound frame to pound opponents at every turn.

Easily the best Grizzly on the night, Nolan had the Coquitlam Express defence on their heels.

“Coach [Craig] Didmon tells us to finish all the checks. It wears the other team down and if we keep finishing hits, eventually they will turn pucks over and we can go from there,” Nolan said.

“We’re a physical team when it comes to it and I’m one of the bigger bodies on the bench. I figure a big hit can change momentum of the game, so hit when you can.

“It seemed like it was wearing their defenceman down and the next time they get the puck, they would think twice.”

It worked to perfection as Nolan derailed the Express all night with a constant barrage of physical play.

“He’s a big kid. He’s strong and is in great shape,” Didmon said of Nolan.

“He adds to that physicality. he’s another guy like [Jamie] Rome and [Lucas] Clark and [Marty] Westhaver. Those are guys, with either size or speed, who should be finishing off [checks on] defenceman on a regular basis.”

They did the job on Friday, thanks to the strong third period.

“That was part of it. We’d been there before, up by a goal in the third before, and we wanted to make sure we brought everything to the table and that’s why the physicality came out,” Didmon said. “I thought our third was real good. I think of a few chances in the second and in the third where if we don’t hit the goalie in the belly [with the puck] that maybe it’s a 4-1 or 5-1 game.”

The one that likely really bothered him was a 3-on-1 break that ended up with Drayson Pears’ shot hitting the goalie on the crest on his jersey. But the Grizzlies also didn’t give up too many opportunities in the third, unlike the first two periods in which defensive lapses nearly cost them.

“We just focused on getting pucks low and maintaining that lead. We kept our third forward high and didn’t want to give them anything,” said Nolan, who continues to improve.

“The pace of the BCHL was fast at first, but I’m getting used to it,” said the Lake Forest Academy product.

“I’ve been playing with skilled guys, so it’s fun to give the puck up and get it back, and see how it works out.”

The Grizzlies, who ended a four-game losing skid with Friday’s win, now must gain momentum.

“For us, we have a huge game Sunday. We need to appreciate the moment here, move on and get the job done on Sunday,” Didmon said.

“Definitely, we had a few losses there and the team was a little shaken up, but the guys came out and battled big [Friday] and I think we’ll take that to Alberni,” Nolan said.

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