Submitted by Brady Knezacek
The McBride Grizzlies Midget Hockey team travelled to Mackenzie, BC for tournament action over the weekend. The Grizzlies first game was Saturday morning in front of a large crowd against the host team, Mackenzie Knights. The Knights took a quick 2 goal lead in the first period before Grizzly forwards, Dylan Vizza and Keith Shawara answered back. Both assisted on each other’s goals. Grizzlies took the lead in the 2nd period on Shawara’s second goal again assisted by Vizza. Grizzlies goaltender, Robert Knezacek, stopped a Knights player on a awarded penalty shot. Jordan Gibson gave the Grizzlies a 2 goal cushion in the 3rd period with defencemen, Rylan Moore, scoring what proved to be the game winning goal assisted by Vizza. The Knights made it close late in the 3rd period but came up short losing 5-4 to the Grizzlies.
Game 2 saw the Grizzlies play against the Quesnel 2 (Black Jersey) team. The Grizzlies came out flying and scored six 1st period goals with Quesnel answering only once. Shawara, AP player Ethan Quam, Vizza (2 G), Brett Jones (2G) scored for the Grizzlies. Assists went to Vizza (2), Shawara (3), Noah Janeke (2), Jordan Gibson (2) and Austin Gibson. Knezacek stopped three Quensel break-aways during the game. The Grizzlies cruised to a 10-1 victory with additional goals coming from Bryden Basran, Vizza (hat-trick), Jones (hat-trick) and Shawara. Assists went to Basran (3), Moore, Janeke, Austin Gibson and Vizza.
Game 3 on Saturday evening saw the Grizzlies take on the Prince George Select team. The teams were evenly matched with no goals in the 1st period with both goaltenders making great saves. PG took a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period. The Grizzlies goal came from Dawson Drader assisted by Basran and Moore. With 8 minutes left Basran was able to tie the game assisted by Moore. The round robin game ended up a tie at 2-2.
The Grizzlies finished round robin play early Sunday morning (7am) against the Quesnel Red team. The Grizzlies surprised their coaches and came out awake and flying scoring 5 goals in the first on their way to the 10-1 victory. Scoring for the Grizzlies were Vizza (2G), Jones, Janeke (2G), Shawara, Austin Gibson, Basran, Jordan Gibson and Moore. Helpers went to Jones, Shawara (2), Vizza, Basran (3), Moore and Shaelyn Bratten who’s fore-checking was relentless.
The Grizzlies 3-0-1 record in round robin play was identical to the Prince George team’s record. The Grizzlies earned the number 1 seed with goal differential which saw them play the PG team again for the tournament championship. The Mackenzie Knights defeated the Quesnel Red team earlier to take the 3rd place trophy. In front of a large crowd the two teams battled back and forth in the extremely fast paced game with no goals in the 1st period. The Grizzlies opened the scoring in the 2nd period on a power play goal by Basran assisted by Vizza and Drader. PG answered back 4 minutes later and then took the lead with 1:35 left in the 2nd period until Drader replied with a power play goal for the Grizzlies with just 49 seconds left in the 2nd period. With the score 2-2 going into the 3rd period both teams concentrated on killing off numerous penalties. PG scored to go ahead at the 10:05 mark of the 3rd period. The Grizzlies continued to press despite the 3 man fore-check Prince George was executing. With 1:54 left in the 3rd period, Grizzlies defenceman Rylan Moore took a pass from Shawara, broke into the middle of the PG zone and beat the Prince George goaltender with a low shot tying the game at 3-3. With the Grizzlies coaches planning on the bench for 3 on 3 overtime, the game wound down until a face off in the neutral zone with less than 20 seconds on the clock. Grizzly center Keith Shawara was able to gain control after the face-off, enter the PG zone and using the PG defenseman as a screen fire off a low shot. The shot found the only opening the goaltender had left open while in the butter-fly position went through his legs and crossed the goal line with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Pandemonium resulted on the Grizzly bench where the coaches called a time-out to strategize for the face-off at center ice. Prince George pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker however Grizzly center, Dawson Drader, was able to force the puck into the PG zone at the face-off, sealing the championship for the exhausted Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies have now won 3 of the 4 tournaments they have attended this year posting a 19 win, 2 loss and 2 tie record. The Grizzlies invite all McBride and area residents to come out for their 6-team home tournament on March, 4, 5 and 6 at the Robson Valley Arena. This will be the final tournament for the Grizzlies this season.