Tight hockey games can be decided by fluky goals and Victoria Grizzlies received them in the opener while Powell River Kings had to wait for game two.
Lucky bounces and a slightly ramped up team allowed Powell River to avenge a 3-1 loss on Friday with a 4-2 victory on Saturday.
After opening ceremonies to celebrate the Kings 25th anniversary in Junior A hockey, City of Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa dropped the puck between Powell River captain Aidan Wright and Victoria’s Mark McLellan.
As expected, Kings got off to a great start with lots of pressure but didn’t really generate any scoring chances or goals.
Grizzlies scored first on a lucky goal from behind the goal line with just over a minute to go in the period and went up 2-0 at 6:28 of the second on a crazy bounce off the end boards.
King’s Truman Gonzales answered quickly at 6:42 on a nice set-up from linemates Luke Nogard and Lucas Grayson but the Grizzlies closed the scoring at 18:12 of the middle frame and held on to win 3-1.
“We took some bad penalties, made a lot of mistakes on the back end and we weren’t feisty enough,” said general manager and coach Kent Lewis after the game. “They got a lucky first one and again on the second one and because of bad penalties we couldn’t get any momentum. We were too easy to play against tonight and we’ll make adjustments for tomorrow.”
Goal scorer Gonzales added, “We seemed to have some opening game jitters and we could have played better in both the offensive and defensive zones.”
Discipline and the frustration of having to control Grizzlies’ Fitzgerald triplets for 60 minutes also contributed to the loss. “With good players like that you have to stay composed and not take dumb penalties but we did and they cost us,” said Gonzales. “Tomorrow we’ll come out better and smarter.”
He and his coach were right on both counts as the Kings started with the same energy but capitalized early on a couple of chances.
Just 17 seconds into the game, off the hard work of Kurt Keats and point shot of Kyle Chatham, Jarid Lukosevicius hopped on a rebound and hit the top corner with a nifty backhand.
Still pouring on the pressure, JJ Coleshaw circled behind the Grizzlies’ net and fired the puck from behind the goal line. It careened off the goalie’s pad and in at 2:40.
Grizzlies got one back before the end of the first period but King’s Ryan Scarfo pounded in a rebound off Brian Rideout’s point shot to go up 3-1. Lukosevicius added his second at 16:25 to go up 4-1 after two periods.
Victoria scored on the powerplay at 4:17 of the final frame but Kings were much more disciplined and responsible on Saturday to claim their first home win 4-2.
Kings fans saw two different home teams in consecutive nights.
“We came in last night thinking it was going to be as easy as it was last weekend,” said defenceman Rideout, “but we’ve got to know now that’s not true. We’ve got to come and play every night, but this was definitely our team tonight.”
Assistant coach Chad van Diemen said the keys to victory were, “a timely powerplay goal and our kill was very good. Special teams are the key to our league it seems and if you win that battle you’ve got a good shot at winning games.”
Certainly, against Victoria, controlling the Fitzgerald triplets is also a key to success.
Port Hardy native Grayson, who is very familiar with the trio through minor hockey, said, “they are fast guys but you need to take their time and space away quickly before they build up their speed. Tonight I think our team played pretty well against them, keeping them outside.”
Kings face a couple of island foes this week with a game at 7:30 pm on Saturday, September 21 against Nanaimo Clippers and then 3 pm Sunday, September 22 against Alberni Valley Bulldogs, both at Hap Parker Arena.