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Victoria Grizzlies avoid trap, curb Alberni Valley Bulldogs

The Victoria Grizzlies’ Kenny Johnson, left, and Riley Hughes buzz around Alberni Valley Bulldogs goaltender John Hawthorne Thursday night at the Q Centre.
Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
JANUARY 31, 2019 09:56 PM

It was the dreaded “trap game” and it nearly cost the Victoria Grizzlies.

Staring at an Island Division first-place showdown this weekend with the Powell River Kings, the Grizzlies first had to contend with a hungry bunch of Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who were only two points out of the basement in the Island Division.

The ’Dogs showed their teeth early Thursday night, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before the Grizzlies clawed back to take a 5-2 B.C. Hockey League victory at The Q Centre.

Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon shuffled his lines, looking to find some offence after the loss to Vernon on Sunday. The Campbell brothers — Alex and Charlie — were reunited with veteran Ryan Nolan. Kyle McGrath joined fellow Newfoundlander Alex Newhook and 2018 New York Rangers draft pick Riley Hughes.

It took a while to solve veteran John Hawthorne in the Alberni net, but the shuffle paid off as all four Victoria lines picked up goals. After the Grizzlies’ fourth line answered Alberni goals by Keaton Mastrodonato and Ryan Novecosky, Victoria’s first two lines went to work.

Newhook set up Hughes for a one-timer on a mid-second period power play. Then with six minutes left in the middle frame, Alex Campbell was sent in alone by Nolan Campbell, and the 17-year-old — expected to go in this summer’s NHL draft — slid it under Hawthorne to give the Grizzlies the lead for good.

The assist allowed Nolan, who’s headed to Merrimack of the NCAA in the fall, to extend his point streak to four games.

Marty Westhaver, midway through the third, and Cam Thompson into an empty net with three seconds to play, rounded out the Victoria scoring.

The 20-year-old Hawthorne was the reason this one was close. He made 53 saves, while Kurtis Chapman turned aside 26 Alberni shots to pick up his 22nd win of the season.

The victory moves the Grizzlies (30-16-0-2) one point up on the Kings in the race for first. The Bulldogs drop to 16-30-3-0.

After the Powell River set, which goes Saturday night and Sunday at noon at The Q Centre, the Grizzlies are back at home next Thursday when they welcome Cowichan Valley.

AROUND THE BCHL: His assist gave Newhook, projected to go in the first round of this summer’s NHL draft, 75 points on the season, tops in the BCHL. … The West Kelowna Warriors have a new coach. Victoria native Geof Grimwood was let go this week and replaced by former Salmon Arm and Surrey coach Brandon West. The Warriors are fourth in the Interior Division at 26-21-0-1.

bdrewry@timescolonist.com

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