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Kurtis Chapman eager to get back between Victoria Grizzlies’ pipes

Kurtis Chapman is healthy again and starts Wednesday night against Port Alberni.
Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
JANUARY 1, 2019 07:01 PM

The Victoria Grizzlies finished 2018 with probably their worst game of the year in a 4-2 loss to the Nanaimo Clippers Saturday.

But it’s a new year and the B.C. Hockey League club will look to jumpstart 2019 with a victory Wednesday night at The Q Centre against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

That task should be made easier with the return of veteran netminder Kurtis Chapman. The 20-year-old from Airdrie, Alta., last played in late November after suffering an injury that forced him to return home for medical treatment.

When he exited last month, Chapman was the league’s top netminder and while his 2.25 goals-against average is now No. 2 in the BCHL behind Prince George’s Logan Neaton’s 1.87, his save percentage of .944 is still by far the best in the league.

“Kurtis has looked great in practice so it’s time for him to get back in there,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, whose club is winless in its last three games but remains atop the Island Division standings at 22-12-0-2.

“And he’s one of the best goalies in the league so, while you don’t want to have to depend on him being the best player every night, it does give the guys some added confidence that he’s back there.”

Chapman backed up Zack Rose in Saturday’s game and is rarin’ to go. “It has gone well in practice and I’m totally healthy again so I see no reason why I can’t pick up where I left off,” Chapman said.

“It was tough not being able to play but it has given me a little more drive now so I can’t wait to get out there.”

A healthy Chapman and the return of Rose from a lengthy injury layoff now means the Grizzlies’ crease is little crowded. Kyle Dumba was acquired in November to fill the injury void, and while the 20-year-old Dumba has played well in his short tenure in Victoria, the BCHL trade deadline is Jan. 10 and it’s likely one of the Grizzlies goalies will be traded before then.

“We have basically a week to sort things out so we’ll see how these next few games go and then we’ll have some decisions to make,” said Didmon, who expects Rose to back up Chapman on Wednesday.

“Zack had a tough first period on Saturday, like everyone did, but I thought he really buckled down and played well the rest of the way which was good to see after a long layoff.”

The 19-year-old Rose, who has an NCAA scholarship to Bowling Green in his back pocket, faced 37 shots in his first game in more than eight months after off-season shoulder surgery.

“It was a big game for myself so I think I may have overprepared for it and got it a little nervous at the start,” said Rose, who hails from Paradise, N.L. “But once I settled in I thought I played well the rest of the way and I came out of it with only a little muscle soreness so that was good news.”

Rose was also a first-hand witness to the Grizzlies, with the likes of projected 2019 NHL draft picks Alex Newhook and Alex Campbell and 2018 New York Rangers draft pick Riley Hughes up front, only muster three shots on goal against the Clippers in the first period.

“It was ugly for sure,” Rose said. “We were all a little sluggish at the start, but in the second and third periods I thought the guys picked it up and finished fairly strong.”

As for the crowded the crease, Rose says it’s a good thing right now.

“It’s driving us to compete a little harder and we’re all good friends but we also all know that at the end of the day there’s probably only going to be two of us here. It’s not easy but we know things happen for a reason and I think good things will turn out for all three of us.”

LOOSE PUCKS: The Bulldogs come to town in fourth place in the Island Division with a 13-23-1-0 record. … After Wednesday’s game, the Grizzlies will wrap up their four-game homestand this weekend when the Langley Rivermen visit The Q Centre on Friday night and the Prince George Spruce Kings hit town Sunday for a 2 p.m. game.

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