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Victoria Grizzlies know showdown awaits in Prince George

American blueliner Kenny Johnson, 20, has two goals and six points in 11 playoff games for the Grizzlies.
Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
MARCH 28, 2019 10:18 PM

The Victoria Grizzlies know it is going to be raucous for the opening two games of the best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Coastal Conference final series tonight and Saturday in Prince George. But they say that’s just the way they like it.

The Spruce Kings sold out 1,800-seat Rolling Mix Concrete Arena for the two home games of their four-game sweep of the Chilliwack Chiefs in the second round of the BCHL playoffs.

That doesn’t intimidate Grizzlies defenceman Kenny Johnson, who says the more people watching the better, no matter which team they are cheering for.

“We want to run them out of their own rink,” said the 20-year-old Johnson, headed next season to play in the NCAA for the Penn State Nittany Lions.

“I loved packed rinks. It’s as much a boost for us as them. It makes it more fun, especially when you come in as the bad guys.”

The third and fourth games are Monday and Tuesday at The Q Centre in Colwood. The series winner will advance to the BCHL championship to meet the winner of the Interior Conference final between the Vernon Vipers and Wenatchee Wild. The league champion will represent the BCHL in the 2019 Canadian Junior A championship tournament May 11-19 in Brooks, Alta.

Although he has two goals and six points in 11 playoff games for the Grizzlies, make no mistake about which end of the rink the six-foot-four, 225-pound Johnson takes care of first.

“I’m a hard-nosed, get in anybody’s face, defensive defenceman, who will join the rush when the opportunity is there,” said the American blueliner, who had six goals and 12 points for Victoria in 18 regular-season games after being acquired from the Penticton Vees.

That’s just the defensive style the Grizzlies will need as they contend with a Prince George offence that outscored Chilliwack 21-3 in the second-round sweep and is well energized, while Victoria had to go seven games to get past the Powell River Kings in their second-round series.

“They are rested, which makes it all that much more important for us to come out hard, fast and strong in the first game,” said Johnson, who de-committed from his Ann Arbor hometown University of Michigan Wolverines in favour of Penn State.

A series storyline will be the brutal travel between the Island and Prince George with four games in five days.

“That is grinding travel, but you make the best of it with movies and just looking out the window at nature,” Johnson said.

“Travel is where a lot of your memories of junior hockey are made.”

ICE CHIPS: There at 69 BCHL alumni among the 16 teams in the 2019 NCAA tournament, which begins tonight, and concludes with the Frozen Four from April 11 to 13 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

BCHL COASTAL CONFERENCE FINAL

Schedule

Game 1 – Tonight (in Prince George)

Game 2 – Saturday (in Prince George)

Game 3 – Monday (at Q Centre)

Game 4 – Tuesday (at Q Centre)

Game 5 – April 4 (in Prince George), if needed

Game 6 – April 6 (at Q Centre), if needed

Game 7 – April 8 in (Prince George), if needed