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Victoria Grizzlies have date with ’Dogs in playoffs

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
FEBRUARY 25, 2019 09:56 PM

A whopping 31 points separated the Victoria Grizzlies atop the Island Division and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in fourth place during the 2018-19 B.C. Hockey League regular season.

So, where have both teams seen this scenario before?

A chasm of 29 points separated the clubs at the end of the 2017-18 B.C. Hockey League season, and yet the Bulldogs managed to build a shocking 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven first round playoff series last year, before the suddenly-chastened Grizzlies prevailed in a seven-game series.

Victoria (36-18-4) and Alberni Valley (21-34-3) meet again in the first round, beginning Friday and Saturday at The Q Centre. The series swings up-Island for games March 5-6 at Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni. If required, Game 5 would be March 8 at The Q Centre, Game 6 on March 9 in Port Alberni and Game 7 on March 11 at The Q Centre.

“Everything is a lesson,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, referring to last year’s series. “We don’t want to get in trouble this time. We want to have a good start this year.”

He said the Grizzlies have learned to take nothing for granted.

“We know they [Bulldogs] are going to put their best foot forward,” added Didmon.

“Alberni Valley is a good team that plays hard and with speed and skill. The Bulldogs have had a good second half. All teams are built for this time of year. We have to step up to the challenge. We have to figure out how they plan to defend against us, and find a way around that.”

The other Island Division opening playoff series pits the second-place Powell River Kings (34-21-3) against the third-place Nanaimo Clippers (27-30-1) beginning Friday in Powell River.

The fifth-place Cowichan Valley Capitals (17-35-6) return to the playoffs after a year’s absence and will play the Interior Division-champion Penticton Vees (37-16-5) in a cross-over opening-round series beginning Thursday in the Okanagan.

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, closed out their regular-season account Sunday afternoon with a 7-4 victory over Cowichan after outscoring the Capitals 5-1 in the third period at The Q Centre.

Victoria sat out captain Alex Newhook, the projected 2019 first-round NHL draft pick, who had already clinched the Brett Hull Trophy as BCHL scoring champion with 102 points.

Forward Cam Thompson scored a hat trick for the Grizzlies on a four-point afternoon. Marty Westhaver and Henri Schreifels added a goal and assist each. Alex Campbell, projected for the second or third rounds of the 2019 NHL draft, had two assists, as did brother Charlie Campbell. Jake Veilleux also scored for the Grizzlies.

Jeremie Bucheler and Carter Berger, a pair of blue-liners ranked by Central Scouting for the 2019 NHL draft, had three assists and a goal and two assists, respectively, for Victoria.

Niko Esposito-Selivanov led Cowichan Valley with a goal and assist.

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