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Grizzlies look to end regular season on high note

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
FEBRUARY 20, 2020 10:30 PM

GAME DAY: VICTORIA AT POWELL RIVER
7 p.m. at Hap Parker Arena

The Victoria Grizzlies have a pair of hockey games in Powell River this weekend, but you could forgive them if their minds were elsewhere.

While the Grizzlies wrap up the regular season with a pair of rather meaningless games tonight and tomorrow against the Island Division third-place Kings, their thoughts may wander over to the Interior Division where several key games will determine who Victoria opens the B.C. Hockey League playoffs against.

With the Grizzlies (24-31-1) locked into the No. 1 wild-card playoff spot no matter the outcome of the two games against the Kings (27-23-6), they will begin the playoffs at the third-place team in the Interior Division. And that’s where things are still unclear as just a single point separates the Wenatchee Wild (64 points), Vernon Vipers (63) and Salmon Arm Silverbacks (63). All three teams have two regular season games remaining, and while the Wild (30-22-4) look to be in the driver’s seat, Wenatchee finishes the season with two games against the Interior Division-leading Penticton Vees, both at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

The Vipers (30-23-3) may have the upper hand as they close with a home-and-home set with the West Kelowna Warriors (14-33-9), while the Silverbacks (29-22-5) finish up with a road game tonight in Trail against the Smoke Eaters (35-16-5), and then a home game Saturday against the last-place Merritt Centennials (13-39-4).

“We really don’t have a preference with regards to who we open the playoffs against,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, whose team was 0-2 against the Wild in the regular season and 1-1 against the Vipers and Silverbacks.

“We’ve been playing consistent hockey the last little while and we want to keep that momentum heading into the playoffs.”

The Grizzlies are 7-2 in their last nine games, including a 4-2 win over the Kings last Sunday at The Q Centre.

They also have one of the hottest goaltenders in the league right now as 20-year-old NCAA Penn State-bound Liam Souliere is 7-1 in his last eight starts, improving his record to 9-5 with a 3.25 goals-against average since joining the team in early January after missing the first half of the season with an injury.

“We may change a few things lineup-wise this weekend, but overall we just want to keep our foot on the gas and finish strong,” added Didmon.

It also helps that for the first time all season, the Grizzlies will have a healthy lineup. Rookie Brendan Bowie, an NCAA commit to St. Lawrence University, missed the last two games with an illness but is ready to return.

LOOSE PUCKS: Regardless of the outcome this weekend, the Kings will finish third in the Island Division, meaning they will start the playoffs on the road against either the Nanaimo Clippers or the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Heading into tonight’s play, the Capitals lead the Island Division by three points over the Clippers.

bdrewry@timescolonist.com

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