In his B.C. Hockey League coaching career Bill Bestwick has experienced teams with high turnover. But this year’s Victoria Grizzlies resemble that of an expansion team, not one that was within a win of the Coastal conference finals in 2011.
The new-look Grizzlies split the first two games at the BCHL showcase in Chilliwack last weekend, a 1-0 loss to the Coquitlam Express and a 5-4 overtime win against the Port Alberni Bulldogs. Tonight (Sept. 14) is the Grizz home-opener against the Powell River Kings.
“For a team of 17 new players, I thought they acquitted themselves well (in Chilliwack),” Bestwick said. “The Coquitlam game could have been 3-3, and it could have gone either way, both goalies were great.”
Coquitlam’s Cole Huggins stopped all 40 shots he faced for the shutout. Victoria’s Brady Rouleau saved 26 of 27 shots.
Rouleau, 19, won 12 games with the Cowichan Valley Capitals last year and was unlucky to be pinned with the team’s first loss on Friday. The Grizzlies’ other netminder, Michael Stiliadis, an 18-year-old import from Ontario, earned the win over Port Alberni on Saturday despite letting in four goals.
“You’re not going to see many shutouts in this league,” Bestwick said. “That said, from what I saw at the showcase, there is some extremely good goaltending in the BCHL this year.”
Bestwick only took over as the Grizz head coach and general manager in late June, which, by junior A hockey standards, is considered too late. Regardless, he and assistant coach-GM Craig Didmon got as busy as they could in the trading and recruiting department.
“I’ve never started with a team in July,” Bestwick said. “But the expectations aren’t any less. If anything, it’s a chance to shape this group of players into our philosophy.”