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Victoria Grizzlies ship netminder Joe Howe to Express

Netminder Joe Howe was in his first season in Victoria.

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
JANUARY 7, 2020 10:04 PM

It isn’t often a so-far journeyman Junior A goaltender beats out a player committed to a big-name NCAA Div. 1 school.

But that’s what has happened as the Victoria Grizzlies traded Cornell Big Red-bound Joe Howe to the Coquitlam Express for future considerations in a B.C. Hockey League trade Tuesday, ahead of Friday’s trade dealine.

In doing so, the Grizzlies have put their faith in Blake Wood. The six-foot-three Harbour City product played for the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford and the hometown Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and came to the Grizzlies after 14 games last season in the BCHL with the Cowichan Valley Capitals and one this season with the Nanaimo Clippers. A WHL bantam draft selection of the Kamloops Blazers, Wood has played in 20 games for Victoria this season, going 7-11 with a 3.60 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

The six-foot-two Howe came highly touted from Barrie, Ont., and Upper Canada College and appeared in 26 games for Victoria with an 8-14 record, 3.91 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

“Both are very good 18-year-old goalies and it was a tough decision,” said Grizzlies head coach and GM Craig Didmon.

“Wood has shown a real competitive edge and commitment to the game. He has a high care factor and really wants to be here and has played good hockey down stretch for us. We also feel we moved Joe Howe into a good situation in Coquitlam with a goalie who will be aging out next season [Howe will not play at Cornell until the season after next].”

The move became necessary with the return of Liam Souliere. The 20-year-old goaltender from Blainville, Que., headed in the fall to NCAA Div. 1 hockey with the Penn State Nittany Lions, missed the first half of the season to a lower-body injury before making his Grizzlies debut over the weekend.

Souliere is the No. 1 now in the Grizzlies crease with backing from Wood.

“Liam is headed to Penn State and the focus in our crease is on him,” said Didmon.

With Wood the understudy hoping to inherit the starting mantle next season.

Victoria hosts the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday on Tyler Bozak Night when the Stanley Cup-champion’s No. 11 Grizzlies jersey will be retired and raised to the rafters of The Q Centre. Then Victoria will welcome the Powell River Kings to town on Saturday night.

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