The Victoria Grizzlies will have to win on the road if they want to extend their B.C. Hockey league semifinal with the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Grizzlies erased a 2-0 deficit with three straight goals Wednesday, but ultimately dropped a 4-3 decision in game 4 Wednesday at The Q Centre to fall behind 3-1 in the series.
The Chiefs can wrap things up with a win at home Friday night and make a return to the Fred Page Cup league championship series against either Vernon or Penticton.
Losing the game was one thing, but the Grizzlies lost all-star goaltender Matthew Galajda for the duration of the series due to a concussion. The netminder was steamrolled in his crease in the final minute of the opening period after saving a shot by Aaron O’Neill, who had Victoria defenceman Brett Stirling hot on his heels.
The referees called no penalty and Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon was livid talking about the play afterward.
“That’s the fifth time in this series that our goalie’s got run,” he said. “They knew what they were doing. I don’t think it was a mishap or anything, it was intentional and it was disappointing. But you know what, that’s how they wanna play, well, hopefully the hockey gods get them back.”
Asked about Galajda’s condition, Didmon said, “he won’t be back this series – we have our fourth (team) concussion since game 1, just for the record.” Tony Rehm took over in goal and stopped 14 of 16 shots the rest of the way.
Despite losing the player most responsible for their winning game 2 at Prospera Centre, Didmon thought his team played well and simply weren’t getting much puck luck Wednesday.
“We’re just going to go in there Friday and focus on living another day to play in our barn.”
A Victoria win would see the teams return to Colwood for game 6 on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Game 7 if necessary, would be played next Monday in Chilliwack.
Asked what he saw of the Galajda play, Chiefs head coach Jason Tatarnic said he saw contact after the shot between Stirling and O’Neill, and that his player’s skate appeared to come up as he fell and struck the goalie.
“It’d be a different story if O’Neill went in there with a shoulder and it was an intentional thing, but O’Neill was just trying to make a hockey play and unfortunately there was contact after that,” Tatarnic said.
He expected that the Grizzlies would arrive with lots of fight in them for game 5, with their season on the line. “It’s no different than when we faced Langley and were up on them, and we were up on Wenatchee. We’ve been in that situation when teams are fighting, so we know what’s coming at us … It should make for a good hockey game.”
The Chiefs looked primed to dominate the Grizzlies early on in game 4, with Linden Hora beating Galajda just 1:43 in. Powell Connor made it 2-0 on a high screen shot to the goalie’s stick side at the 13:40 mark.
But some aggressive forechecking by Nathan Looysen and a nice move on Chiefs goalie Mark Sinclair resulted in Looysen’s first goal of the playoffs a minute and a half later.
A short time later still, Cole Pickup was thwarted by Sinclair on a partial breakaway.
Nick Guiney seemed to inspire his Grizzlies teammates by fighting O’Neill midway into the second and they continued to put pressure on.
Chiefs Tommy Lee attempted to goad Grizzlies speedster Keyvan Mokhtari into a scrap a couple minutes later, but the latter kept his gloves on and Lee was sent to the box for roughing.
The Grizzlies’ Jamie Rome tied it up on the resulting power play, deflecting a high Stirling point shot. Just 43 seconds later, an extra effort by Pickup in the attacking zone earned him his sixth of the playoffs to make it 3-2 at the 11:09 mark.
But BCHL playoff points leader Jordan Kawaguchi, who had previously been rather quiet, scored top shelf on Rehm to finish off a three-on-one rush that resulted from a bad Grizzlies line change.
The Chiefs notched the winner on the power play just 50 seconds into the third when Kohen Olischefski scored from Kawaguchi and Olivier Arseneau.
Still battling, the Grizzlies outshot Chilliwack 17-5 in the final period and saw perhaps their best chance to tie when Mokhtari raced in on a clear cut breakaway with less than nine minutes to play.