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Kurtis Chapman set to carry big load for Grizzlies

Veteran Kurtis Chapman appeared in nine playoff games last season for the Grizzlies and is looking for a fast start to the regular season.

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
AUGUST 30, 2018 10:26 PM

It was supposed to be the most heated battle of the Victoria Grizzlies training camp and preseason.

With two No. 1 goaltenders set to return to the B.C. Hockey League club, who would win the starting job: 20-year-old Kurtis Chapman, who had a strong finish to last season and has Western Hockey League experience, or 19-year-old Zack Rose, committed to Bowling Green of the NCAA and who led Team Canada West to a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek last December?

Sometimes the best laid plans go astray.

A shoulder injury to Rose during off-season training forced the Paradise, N.L., product to have surgery, putting him on the shelf until mid-December.

Over to you, Chapman.

“It’s really unfortunate what happened to Zack, but his rehab is progressing as expected, which is good news,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, whose club continues the preseason tonight with a game in Duncan against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

“And we’re moving forward with Kurtis as our No. 1 and he’s looking forward to having a great season in his last year of junior hockey so we expect big things out of him.”

Chapman was at home near Calgary this summer when he got the call from Rose.

“Zack phoned me as soon as it happened and told me he would be out a while so I was a little shocked to hear that and you feel bad for him,” said Chapman, who came to the Grizzlies last December from the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and got in 20 regular-season games with a goals-against average of 2.75, and another nine in the playoffs, where he recorded a GAA of 2.17.

“So it’ll be a busy first half, for sure.”

Those 29 games with the Grizzlies last season was the most Chapman has appeared in since he started his Junior A career in 2015 with the Olds Grizzlies of the AJHL. He also played sporadically for the Regina Pats and Kootenay Ice of the WHL.

“Back in Olds I got in more than 30 games. So it might take some getting used to, but I had a good summer of training, working on conditioning and flexibility, and I think I’m ready for a heavier work load.”

To help spell Chapman off every now and then, Didmon has gone to a familiar face. Keenan Rancier, who just turned 18, is from Victoria but played midget at Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton last season. And he looks ready to start his Junior A career.

“Keenan has spent the last few seasons with OHA but he’s from Victoria and we’ve kept a close eye on him the last little while and like the way he has progressed and feel he’s ready for the next level,” Didmon said.

Rancier played 22 regular season games last season, posting a 2.29 GAA and picked up a BCHL preseason win last weekend.

“They move the puck a lot quicker up here and make decisions quicker, so my whole game has to be better,” said Rancier, who attended Spencer Middle School in Langford before heading to the Okanagan.

Rancier said he was excited when his hometown team came calling.

“I had been to a few of the Grizzlies rookie camps and it’s a great organization on and off the ice so I’m really excited to be here.”

Even if it might only be for half a season.

“All I can do is focus on how I play and control the things I can control and not worry about the things I can’t control. I’m going to play my best when called upon and keep helping the team win. And when a decision has to be made, it’ll be made.”

No matter who plays in net, Chapman is confident the Grizzlies have what it takes to make a serious run at a BCHL title.

“Keenan has looked great in camp and in the games, and we have a ton of skill at forward and some good, experienced guys returning, so I think we’re in for a real good year,” said Chapman, who already has some offers from U Sports schools in Alberta for next season.

The Grizzlies and Capitals will wrap up the preseason on Saturday with a 2 p.m. game at SEAPARK Arena in Sooke. The Grizzlies open the regular season Sept. 8 in Powell River against the Kings.

LOOSE PUCKS: A week before the start of the BCHL regular season, the Surrey Eagles have a new coach. Peter Schaefer takes over as head coach after Brandon West and the team mutually agreed to part ways. Schaefer, a former NHLer with Vancouver, Ottawa and Boston, was the head coach of the Eagles for the 2013-14 season after serving as an assistant coach before that. . . . Former Grizzlies forward Keyvan Mokhtari, 20, has been dealt from the Vernon Vipers to the Langley Rivermen. Going to the Vipers is 18-year-old defenceman Austin Chorney.