Head coach Craig Didmon and the Grizzlies begin a three-game road trip Friday in Prince George.
Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST
Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 10:07 PM
As if having to take the two longest road trips of the season — to Prince George and to Trail — on back-to-back weekends isn’t tough enough, the Victoria Grizzlies have to begin the gruelling schedule with a date tonight against the defending B.C. Hockey League-champion Spruce Kings, a team that knocked them out of the playoffs last spring in the league semifinals.
But Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon isn’t one to dwell on the negatives as his young team looks to rebound from last Saturday’s 8-2 season-opening loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“It is a tough part of our schedule but we do have some veterans who have been through this before and they’re helping our young players with what to expect,” said Didmon.
“And these trips are good bonding times for the team, which are helpful when you have a lot of new players like we do, and having a lot of games in a short amount of time is a good evaluation opportunity for the coaches so that’s good to have early on.”
One of those veterans stepping to forefront this week is goaltender Liam Souliere. The 20-year-old from Brampton, Ont., missed the season opener with an injury but has been back practising this week and will get start tonight at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
“Liam is a veteran of a lot of Junior A hockey games so we expect him to be a calming presence on the ice and be a leader off the ice as well,” added Didmon.
Souliere spent last season with the Brockville Braves and was named the Central Canada Hockey League’s top netminder after posting a 2.13 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 37 games. He was also named to Team Canada East for the World Junior A Challenge.
Souliere said while he’s never seen much of B.C., he’s used to long bus trips around Ontario and has been busy passing along travel tips to the younger players.
“Drink lots of water on the bus. Stay hydrated,” said Souliere, who will head to the NCAA and Penn State next fall on a hockey scholarship.
“We’re a young team but we’re very skilled so we just have to play with confidence and I think this road trip will help us relax and start playing our game.”
The Grizzlies aren’t the only team in rebuilding mode. The team they’ll take on tonight lost the bulk of their team after losing to the Brooks Bandits in the national championship game last spring.
Prince George also has a new coach as former assistant Alex Evin takes over for Adam Maglio, who joined the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League as an associate coach.
The Spruce Kings began defence of their title with a loss and overtime loss in a double-header against the Surrey Eagles last weekend.
“They’re in a similar situation as us having to bring in a lot of new players,” said Didmon. “But they’re always tough to play against, especially in that small rink up there, so it’s going to be a tough battle, but those are the types of challenges we need right now and we’re looking forward to it.”
LOOSE PUCKS: Next weekend’s road trip sees the Grizzlies start in Vernon on Sept. 20, then move to Salmon Arm on Sept. 21 before finishing in Trail on Sept. 22. The Grizzlies’ home opener is Sept. 28 when the Powell River Kings pay a visit to The Q Centre.
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