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Grizzlies jump into series lead against Eagles

Victoria BC – Times Colonist: Cleve Dheensaw: Surrey Eagles GM and head coach Cam Keith warned, before his team’s series against Victoria, that the Grizzlies’ heavier, defensive-oriented game was more suited for playoff hockey than his squad’s flashier, offensive style built to make use of the Olympic-size ice sheet at South Surrey Arena.

Keith proved prescient as the Coastal Conference fourth-seed Grizzlies beat the Eagles 5-3 on Monday night at The Q Centre to take a 2-1 lead against the Coastal and overall B.C. Hockey League regular-season champion Eagles in their best-of-seven conference semifinal series.

Oliver Genest’s first goal of the playoffs and Nathan King’s third of the post-season put the Grizzlies ahead by two goals before the game was five minutes old. Aaron Schwartz brought the series-favoured Eagles to within one at 14:30 of the first period.

Grizzlies forward Luc Pelletier of Courtenay, committed in the NCAA to Princeton of the Ivy League, restored the two-goal lead on the power play at 1:25 of the second period. It was another power-play goal by Charlie Gollob that pretty much looked to seal the deal at 11:32 of the third period for Victoria. But not so quick. Gollob’s counter turned out to be needed as the winning goal as Surrey pulled to within one at 4-3 on a power-play goal by Massimo Fazio at 13:49 and a pinpoint shot by NCAA Ivy League Yale-bound Micah Berger at 15:04 for his sixth goal of the playoffs. It wasn’t really decided until Julian Cull found the empty net at 19:01 with Surrey goaltender Ajeet Gundarah pulled for an extra attacker.

The match-up featured two of the best goaltenders in the league, pitting BCHL first-team all-star Gundarah of the Eagles against last year’s BCHL rookie-of the year Oliver Auyeung-Ashton of the Grizzlies. Both are NCAA Div. 1 bound, with Gundarah to Sacred Heart and Auyeung-Ashton to Colgate, and both were busy on the night facing 43 shots each.

The fourth game is tonight at The Q Centre and the fifth game in Surrey on Thursday night. If required, the sixth game would be Saturday at The Q Centre and the seventh game next Monday in Surrey.

The other Coastal Conference semifinal series continues tonight and Wednesday night with the third-seed Alberni Valley Bulldogs taking on the second-seed Chilliwack Chiefs in the third and fourth games of their series in Port Alberni. The defending conference-champion Bulldogs lead 2-0.

ICE CHIPS: Surrey GM and head coach Keith is a former Grizzlies forward (when the team was known as the Salsa) and is a former Alaska Aces nemesis of the Victoria Salmon Kings during ECHL pro days. … Assistant coach Scott Gomez is an Eagles alumnus who also played for the Aces against the Salmon Kings, not to mention in over 1,000 NHL games. … Fifteen-year-old Victoria prodigy Noah Kosick, who recently chose the University of Michigan Wolverines of the NCAA over the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, has selected to play next season in the BCHL but a long way off-Island for the Sherwood Park Crusaders of Alberta.