The Victoria Grizzlies hit the road on Friday for the first leg of a home-and-home series against the Nanaimo Clippers.
With a second period marker, Nathan Looysen provided all the offence that Victoria needed as Matthew Galajda posted his second shutout of the season in a 1-0 win at Frank Crane Arena in the Harbour City.
The Grizzlies (16-5-2-3, 37 points) began the weekend set locked in a tie with the Powell River Kings for first place in the Island Division of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Nanaimo (11-12-3-1, 26 points) sit fourth in the Island Division, having not played the first place Grizzlies yet this season.
Strong special teams play and solid goaltending was a theme for both teams throughout the night with one shot ultimately standing up to be the difference.
Victoria came out strong, turning in a very strong first period, outshooting the home side, 15-6 but were unable to solve goaltender Evan DeBrouwer who helped the Clippers kill of two shorthanded situations in the opening 20 minutes.
Special teams play dominated much of the second stanza, but DeBrouwer and Grizzlies netminder Matthew Galajda stood strong as the teams combined to go 0-7 on the powerplay through two periods.
The Clippers responded with a strong middle period, outshooting Victoria 14-8, but it was the Grizzlies who would find the net first.
With less than three minutes left in the second period, Nathan Looysen broke the scoreless tie, depositing his eighth goal of the season on even strength to put Victoria ahead 1-0 entering the third.
The Clippers continued to push throughout the final frame but Galajda was up to the task each time, making 31 saves for his second shutout of the season.
DeBrouwer was strong in net for Nanaimo, making 28 saves on 29 shots.
The Grizzlies were 0-5 on the powerplay and held Nanaimo scoreless in four opportunities.
Brett Stirling and Tyler Welsh drew assists on the game’s lone goal scored by Looysen. Welsh is now tied with Cole Pickup for Victoria’s points lead with 31 (15, 16).
With the victory, the Grizzlies (17-5-2-3, 39 points) move two points ahead of Powell River for the Island Division lead, with the Kings trailing the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the third period at press time.
Both teams travel down the Malahat on Saturday for the second game of the two-game set. Face off is at 7:00pm on Saturday at the Q Centre in Victoria.
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