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Short but sweet: Grizzlies win Island Division championship

Grizzlies celebrate on the Weyerhaeuser Arena ice after Sunday’s division-clinching win. WAYNE BEATON

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
MAY 10, 2021 09:59 PM

Don’t tell the Victoria Grizzlies this season didn’t really count. They made it count.

The Grizzlies won the B.C. Hockey League Island Division championship, and in emphatic fashion, with a 7-2 victory Sunday over the host Alberni Valley Bulldogs at Weyerhaeuser Arena.

The Grizzlies finished the 20-game pandemic season at 14-6 and celebrated with the obligatory champions’ group picture at centre ice. Shortened season or not, the players were not going to be denied that moment.

The second-place Bulldogs (10-5-4) have a game remaining, tonight against the Nanaimo Clippers (8-11), but can’t catch the Grizzlies. The Cowichan Valley Capitals finished at 7-11-2. There are no playoffs.

“I told the players to enjoy this and to appreciate it and that nobody can take it away from them,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon.

“It was a tough season, considering the circumstances, but they stuck to it. They wanted this and deserved it. We had a strong team and deserved the outcome we got. It’s a testament to the players’ dedication and commitment. It’s an especially incredible moment for our six graduating 20-year-olds.”

Four of them are heading to U.S. university NCAA Div. 1 programs – Alex DiPaolo to Colgate, Henri Schreifels to R.P.I., Jake Veilleux to UConn and Brady MacDonald to Dartmouth. Also graduating is forward Eddie Yan, bound for the national team camp for host China ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and defenceman Reid Lindsay.

“I was by myself on the bench and the maturity these guys displayed was invaluable,” said Didmon.

“The 20-year-olds took control and responsibility because a lot of the bench management had to be done through the players.”

Yan and Schreifels closed out their junior careers with a goal and assist each Sunday while Andrew Amousse had two goals.

Victoria scored four goals against Ivy League Yale-bound Luke Pearson, considered the best goaltender in the Island Division, in the first seven minutes and 33 seconds of the game. Carter Woodside concluded his strong season in the Victoria crease with 29 saves. Also scoring for the Grizzlies were Tyler Waram, Devon deVries and Matthew Wood. Adam Jeffery and Finn Brown replied for Alberni Valley, an organization which won plaudits from the players and coaches in the division for organizing a near-flawless hub experience.

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