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Message delivered: Grizzlies knock off league-leading Vees

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
JANUARY 29, 2018 10:20 PM

Craig Didmon said he believes in “statement games,” but only to an extent.

Whether the Victoria Grizzlies GM and head coach is a true believer or not of the concept, his club certainly made a statement Sunday at The Q Centre with a 6-3 B.C. Hockey League victory over the Penticton Vees.

The league-leading Vees are the gold standard in the BCHL. They have won two of the last three league championships, and four of the last 10, while producing players such 2016 NHL first-round draft picks Tyson Jost (10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche) and Dante Fabbro (17th overall by the Nashville Predators). This season’s Vees roster includes 2017 NHL draft picks Nicky Leiverman and Ryan O’Connell, both in the seventh round by the Avalanche and Maple Leafs, respectively.

On the Penticton blue line is hometown product Luke Reid, a second-round WHL bantam draft pick of the Victoria Royals, who instead chose the University of North Dakota. Reid is among a whopping 18 Vees players who are NCAA-bound.

The Vees also boast Owen and Lukas Sillinger, the touted sons of Mike Sillinger, who played more than 1,000 games in the NHL.

“I don’t make too much of statements — we have important and tough games ahead, too — but this result would give confidence to any team,” said Didmon.

“It’s something to feed off. We showed we can play with Penticton and we can match their talent.”

The Vees, who came into Sunday’s contest having got atleast a point in 10 straight games, are 31-10-5. The Grizzlies improved to 25-16-7 and are alone atop the Island Divisions standings.

The win avenged for Victoria a 4-2 loss to the Vees in October at the South Okanagan Events Centre. It isn’t too much of a stretch to suggest these two teams could meet in the league final, although Vernon, Wenatchee and Powell River will have something to say about that.

It wasn’t too hard a game for the Grizzlies to get up for Sunday, especially knowing the Vees were concluding a three-games-in-three-days swing through the Island Division.

“We knew we needed to use our energy against them because they have been on the road. We stuck to that plan and we attacked them,” said Didmon. “The guys certainly put in the effort.”

Ethan Nother and T.J. Friedmann led the Grizzlies with two goals apiece. Rookie sensation Alex Newhook added a goal and two assists and is second in league scoring with 61 points despite having played five fewer games than leader Jasper Weatherby (64 points) of Wenatchee. Newhook, touted for the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, leads the league with a 1.45 points-per-game average.

Carter Berger scored the other Grizzlies goal, while Justin Michaelian added two assists. Owen Sillinger, Taylor Ward and Cassidy Bowes scored for Penticton.

Zach Rose made 25 saves in goal for Victoria and Adam Scheel 28 for Penticton.

The Grizzlies are in Nanaimo on Wednesday to take on the Clippers in an Island derby.

Upcoming Grizzlies Home Games

  • Feb. 10, 7pm – VS Cowichan Valley Capitals
  • Feb. 11, 2pm – VS Wenatchee Wolves
  • Feb. 22, 7pm – VS Alberni Valley Bulldogs
  • Feb. 25, 7pm – VS Surrey Eagles – FAN APPRECIATION

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