The Victoria Grizzlies played the first end of back-to-back home games at the Q Centre on Friday night, facing off against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for the fourth time this season.
Backstopped by goalie Matthew Galajda, the Grizzlies turned in a wire-to-wire effort, defeating the Bulldogs on this night by a final of 4-0.
The Grizzlies (11-3-2-3-3, 27 points) were trying to continue their string of success against Alberni Valley (4-11-3-0-1, 11 points), which has seen them score 17 goals en route to a 3-0 record in the season series entering Friday.
Victoria was also looking to start a new streak after falling 4-3 at the hands of the Trail Smoke Eaters in their last action on October 30, snapping their four-game win streak.
The Grizzlies were also looking to climb back into first place in the Island Division of the British Columbia Hockey League, entering Friday in second place, one point behind the Powell River Kings (28 points).
Most of the first period passed by relatively uneventful with the teams playing a tight checking opening 20 minutes. Victoria’s strong penalty killing, which came in ranked second best in the BCHL (84.9%) killed one Bulldogs advantage and in fact generated the better scoring chances.
Play began to open up with quality saves made at both ends of the rink by Brody Claeys for Alberni Valley and the Grizzlies’ Matthew Galajda.
With Victoria applying pressure with less than two minutes remaining, Cole Pickup banged home his team-leading eleventh goal of the season, with assists to Tyler Welsh and Dayne Finnson, giving the Grizzlies the game’s first lead heading to the intermission.
The Grizzlies’ 1-0 lead held through the midway mark of the contest. Alberni Valley’s Alexander Uryga had the best chance in the first half of the period, ringing a wrist shot off the post behind Galajda with just under nine minutes gone in the middle frame.
In stark contrast to the 17-9 combined score in the first three meetings between the two clubs, all Grizzlies victories, calculated play continued through the second with the shot clock reading 18-16 Victoria through 40 minutes.
Pickup remained the only one to find the back of the net with Victoria continuing to lead 1-0.
Victoria established a decided territorial edge in the third period including firing the first six shots of the frame in the direction of Claeys. The pressure helped lead to two powerplay opportunities and they would convert on the second.
With 8:13 remaining, Timothy Freidman found the back of the net on the Grizzlies’ fourth man advantage of the night, his second goal of the season, providing insurance and a 2-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Matthew Galajda who was in control all night long making 20 saves for his first shutout of the season.
A pair of empty netters by Justin Michaelian, his third goal of the season, and Tyler Welsh’s tenth, padded the final score as Victoria pulled away for the 4-0 win.
Brody Claeys made 27 saves in the loss for the Bulldogs who were outshot 31-20.
Victoria finished the evening 1 for 4 on the powerplay while holding Alberni Valley 0 for 4.
Tyler Welsh (1, 1) and Jake Stevens (0, 2) were the leading point-getters with two apiece.
Victoria improves to 12-3-2-3-3 with the win, good for 29 points, still one back of Powell River who defeated the Merritt Centennials 4-3 in double overtime on Friday.