A “mish mash” lineup isn’t slowing the Victoria Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies were without six of their regulars, all suspended, in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Alberni Bulldogs. But the Grizz bounced back with a 4-2 win over the Cowichan Capitals on Friday and survived a gritty 1-0 win over the Vernon Vipers in a matinee on Sunday at Bear Mountain Arena.
“We played really hard in Alberni, we were without six regulars and had some bounces that didn’t go our way, but rebounded on Friday (against Cowichan) and another big win (Sunday),” coach Bill Bestwick said.
Bestwick did his best to roll four lines through the first two periods but moved to a double shift of the Fitzgerald triplets for a good portion of the third period. It resulted in the winning goal.
Myles Fitzgerald surprised Vipers goalie Austin Smith with a quick shot for the game winner nine minutes into the third period. Smith stopped 37 shots otherwise and was named the games second star behind Michael Stiliadis, who was named the first star for his 23-save shutout.
“I’ve been playing (the Fitzgeralds) more in the third period over last two weeks,” Bestwick said. “I’m a four-line guy. I want to get all four lines engage, but the Fitzgerald don’t get all that tired.”
Most recently the Fitzgeralds have chipped in killing penalties, though Bestwick would prefer to use them on the powerplay and at even strength.
Despite their size, Bestwick says the triplets are deceivingly good at wearing down the opposition in a way that’s different from the hard-hitting ways of players such as Mazurek and converted defenceman Chris Albertini.
“Puck possession is important and (the Fitzgeralds) making the defenders turn in their end and retrieve pucks. (The Fitzgeralds) are as good as anybody because you can’t take chances and be too risky with them or they’ll eat you alive. So they’re a tough line to play, a line I feel comfortable using in any situation.”
Blake Thompson and Pearce Eviston, two of the six Grizzlies to receive suspensions from Jan. 12 game incidents against the Chilliwack Chiefs, served their one game versus Alberni and were back with the team on Friday. Stefan Nicholishen was also suspended for just one game but has not returned and is day-to-day with an injury.
It’s meant a different look to the Grizzlies, who had recently come to rely heavily on the second line of Turner Lawson, David Mazurek and Nikolishen.
“They were our best line, a go-to line for us and have been real good,” Bestwick said. Eviston, a trade deadline acquisition, has partnered up with Myles Powell and Mark McLellan, though all lines other than the Fitzgeralds are subject to change until the multitude of suspensions from the Jan. 12 game are finished.
Suspensions still going
The Grizzlies were hit with 22 games in suspensions for post game fights after the 2-1 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs at Bear Mountain Arena on Jan. 12.
Three players hit the biggest were Lawson, and newcomers Kade Pilton and Keyler Bruce. Lawson got the most with eight games, three for leaving the bench to fight, two for fighting at the end of the period and two more for leaving the bench to provoke an incident. Pilton was next with six games for the same incidents while Bruce got five games, three for leaving the bench to join the fracas and two for a blow to the head.
A complaint by Chris Albertini from that game is being followed up on by West Shore RCMP. One of the Chilliwack Chiefs coaches allegedly swung a stick at Albertini while the latter was in the hallway between the benches.
Junior B call ups
Despite the fact they’re arch rivals in the VIJHL, Brody Coulter as captain of the Victoria Cougars and Shawn McBride a top line winger on the Saanich Braves, the two make a solid fourth line for the Grizzlies with Dante Hahn.
Coulter and McBride even had a chance to score the game’s first goal with a 2-on-1 in the third period, although the pass didn’t make it through the defender. The two will rejoin the Grizzlies when their respective runs for the Island and provincial junior B championships are over.
“Coulter and McBride are both very good players. All this experience is great for McBride, who’ll be with us next year, and we’d like to have (Coulter) every game but we know he’s on a very good team so we’re fortunate to have him.”
Cougar hits 100 points
Last week Coulter became the first player in Victoria Cougars junior B history to break the century mark.
Coulter scored three goals as the Cougars defeated the visiting Oceanside Generals 5-2 on Thursday at Archie Browning Sports Centre.
The closest a Cougars player ever came was former Grizzly Mike Hammond, who scored 98 points for the Cougars in 2006-07.