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Grizzlies hope to end skid against Vipers

Grizzlies defenceman Nico Somerville has accepted a scholarship offer from NCAA Division 1 school American International College, where he’ll go next fall to play for the Springfield, Massachusetts-based Yellow Jackets.
Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
OCTOBER 31, 2019 08:25 PM

There’s no question the Victoria Grizzlies are mired in a terrible slump.

You just have to look at their record on Home ice. The Grizzlies have lost their past four games at The Q Centre and are now 2-6 at the Colwood rink and 7-13 overall in the B.C. Hockey League, good for last place in the Island Division.

It’s clearly starting to wear on the Grizzlies players, none more so than their longest-serving member, defenceman Nico Somerville. The 20-year-old blue-liner is just not used to being in this spot, not while wearing a Grizzlies’ uniform.

The Port Alberni product, in his fourth season with the team, played in 35 playoff games in the past three seasons, including 13 last season when the Island Division-champion Grizzlies went to the Coastal Conference final.

“It’s tough right now, there’s no question,” said Somerville, who is having another strong season offensively. His two goals and 12 assists lead all Grizzlies defencemen in points.

“But we have a young group this season and we have to learn that every team has its ups and downs, and we can’t let it really get to us. We just have to keep working hard and keep having good habits, and we’ll get this thing back on track and start racking up some wins.”

Somerville’s strong start hasn’t gone unnoticed. This week he accepted a scholarship offer from NCAA Division 1 school American International College, where he’ll go next fall to play for the Springfield, Massachusetts-based Yellow Jackets.

It’s a long way from his days with the major midget North Island Silvertips and Junior B Victoria Cougars, but Somerville is ready for another step up.

“I’m really excited about AIC,” he said. “I first talked to them at the [BCHL] Showcase last month, and they kept track of how I was doing and were really interested. And the school and the team look like a good fit for me, so I’m really happy with my decision.”

It didn’t hurt that former Grizzlies captain and Somerville’s good friend, Shawn McBride, attended AIC.

“I talked to Shawn before making my decision because I know him from training with him in the summers and stuff, and he had nothing but good things to say about the school. So that made things easier.”

As Somerville and his teammates get set for another challenging weekend with the Vernon Vipers in town tonight, followed by the Penticton Vees on Saturday night, Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon was more than happy to see his veteran defenceman lock up an NCAA scholarship.

“Nico has logged big minutes for us and has been a catalyst in all situations, and he plays against the other team’s top line every night so he’s deserving of what he earns,” Didmon said.

“And in the locker-room, he’s all business and wants to see this team succeed, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

The Grizzlies will look to end their skid tonight in their second meeting this season against the Vipers (10-7). The Grizzlies were the victors last month in Vernon.

“We did beat them, but they’re playing much better right now. So they’re going to come in here ready to play and we’re going to have to match their work ethic right from the start,” Somerville said.

Somerville will get some much-needed help on the blue line this weekend. Veteran defenceman Brady MacDonald is expected back after a long layoff due to injury. The 19-year-old has played only two games this season, but had a goal and an assist in those games.

“Having Brady back will be a big plus for us,” added Somerville. “He brings a veteran presence back there and moves the puck extremely well, so it’s going to be nice to finally have him back.”

LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies will be minus rookie defenceman Isack Bandu tonight as he sits out the final game of his five-game suspension for a match penalty. Bandu will be eligible to return Saturday against the Vees, who are off to a 14-3-1 start and visit the Surrey Eagles tonight.

bdrewry@timescolonist.comt

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