Victoria Grizzlies forward Kyle McGrath racked up a goal and five assists in the four-game sweep of the Bulldogs.
Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST
Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
MARCH 7, 2019 09:55 PM
To borrow a term from another sport, that was a change-up.
Last year, the top Island Division seed Victoria Grizzlies fell behind 3-0 to the fourth-seed Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the first round of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs before rallying for a 4-3 series victory.
The Grizzlies did it in more streamlined fashion this time around. With the seedings identical to last year, the Grizzlies completed a 4-0 sweep of the Bulldogs on Wednesday night in Port Alberni.
“Our returning players knew they couldn’t take anything for granted and that helped us go forward in this year’s matchup against the Bulldogs,” said Grizzlies head coach and GM Craig Didmon.
“We knew we had to be quick out of gate this year, that we would be very tough to come back against, if we went ahead 2-0 in the series at home.”
Not that it was a stroll through Cathedral Grove. Both games in Port Alberni were one-goal affairs, with Game 3 won in overtime before the 3-2 decision in Game 4.
“We responded consistently when things didn’t go our way up there. Our response to adversity on the road was very good,” said Didmon.
The Grizzlies’ roster includes four players ranked for the 2019 NHL draft, including projected first-rounder Alex Newhook and projected second-to third-rounder Alex Campbell.
Newhook, who led the BCHL in scoring in the regular season with 102 points, now leads playoff scoring with nine points. The native of St. John’s, N.L., scored an early goal Wednesday that made Alberni Valley chase Game 4. Blue-liner Carter Berger, another of the Grizzlies projected for the NHL draft, also scored a goal at a crucial juncture in the clinching-game Wednesday.
Campbell, named BCHL player of the week after recording three goals and three assists for six points in the first two games of the series, however, suffered a broken nose. Campbell played only the first period in Game 3 in Port Alberni and did not dress for Game 4.
“[Campbell] had trouble breathing,” said Didmon.
Campbell will play with a full cage or shield for upcoming games. Lucky for him and the Grizzlies, that won’t be until next Friday, when the Grizzlies host Game 1 of the Island Division final against the second-seed Powell River Kings at The Q Centre. The Kings beat the Clippers 5-1 in Game 5 on Thursday night in Powell River to wrap up that series.
“The break we get until next Friday is welcome, because the playoffs become a battle of attrition,” said Didmon.
And his club is more than just the pro prospects, Didmon said.
“We got scoring from more than one line,” he noted.
He could have pointed to Kyle McGrath’s six points in the series and Marty Westhaver’s five.
“And I liked how our defence contributed and how we were physical when we needed to be,” added Didmon.
Meanwhile, the Cowichan Valley Capitals have suddenly become the talk of the BCHL after the Island Division fifth seeds took a stunning 3-1 series lead over the Interior Division top-seed Penticton Vees, a team with two NHL draft picks, with a 3-0 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday at the Stick in Duncan. Game 5 is Saturday night in the Okanagan.
“It’s definitely a surprise,” said Didmon.
“We knew Cowichan was a good team but that’s still a 1-versus-8 matchup. But, as we learned last year, you can’t take anything for granted.”
© 2019 Copyright Times Colonist