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Lethargic Grizzlies can’t keep pace with determined Clippers

Victoria Grizzlies’ Alex Newhook gets around Nanaimo Clippers’ Devon Mussio in BCHL action at The Q Centre on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018.
Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
DECEMBER 29, 2018 10:10 PM

NANAIMO 4 VICTORIA 2

Call it World Junior A Challenge hangover or maybe too much Christmas turkey, but the Victoria Grizzlies started their first game after the Christmas break on Saturday night at The Q Centre as if their skates were stuck in cement.

And by the time they found their skating legs, it was too late as a hungry bunch of Nanaimo Clippers hung on to upend the Island Division-leading Grizzlies by a 4-2 score.

The Grizzlies, playing their first game since early December with the five players who were in Bonneyville, Alta., for the World Junior A Challenge — Alex Newhook, Alex Campbell, Riley Hughes, Carter Berger and Jeremie Bucheler — in the lineup, were outshot 14-3 in the first period. That did no favours for netminder Zack Rose, who was making his first start in the Grizzlies’ net since last March after off-season shoulder surgery.

The Clippers scored on three of those shots, with Ethan Scardina potting a pair.

The Grizzlies cranked it up in the second period, forcing the Clippers to take penalty after penalty and Berger finally converted on a five-on-three power play with three minutes remaining in the second to give the Grizzlies some life.

Newhook, projected to go in the first round the 2019 NHL draft and with more than 10 NHL scouts watching on at The Q Centre, brought the crowd to life early in the third, firing a high wrist shot past Clippers netminder Landon Pavlisin to cut the Clippers’ lead to 3-2. It was Newhook’s 19th goal and league-leading 55th point of the season.

But at the eight-minute mark of the third, Sammy Steele chopped down Grizzlies defenceman Brady MacDonald in front of the Victoria net and just when the hometown fans thought the Grizzlies were headed back to the power play, both referees decided not to make a call and Steele scooped up the loose puck and beat Rose on a quick breakaway.

Rose finished with 31 saves on the night, while Pavlisin made 23 stops in the Nanaimo net.

The Grizzlies, now winless in their last three games, drop to 22-11-0-2 on the season, while the Clippers improve to 16-18-0-0.

The Grizzlies continue their four-game homestand on Wednesday night when the Alberni Valley Bulldogs pay a visit to The Q Centre.

LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies’ regularly scheduled game for today against Powell River has been rescheduled for Feb. 3 at noon.

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