The Victoria Grizzlies aren’t the team they were when they went 7-1 against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs last season.
But the re-fitted Grizz will be game when they square off against the Bulldogs at the AV Multiplex on Friday night.
The Bulldogs are riding momentum after beating the Coquitlam Express 5-1 last Saturday.
Speed, solid goaltending and a new defensive scheme underpinned the victory, assistant coach Adam Heyduk said.
Game highlights included Bulldog goalie Max Fenkel stopping a penalty shot in the first period and nine hits on opposing players by Trent Dorias.
The Bulldog’s were firing on all cylinders, Hayduk said. “Speed, getting the puck to the net and creating good scoring chances.”
The team still needs to work on its neutral zone transition and defencemen getting the puck up the ice instead of cycling it back, he added.
The Bulldogs will need that goaltending and aggressiveness against the Grizzlies, who opened their season 0-2 in back-to-back tilts against the Cowichan Valley Capitals and want to shake the 0.
The Grizzlies were 33-24-3 and had 69 points last season, and they made it to the second round of the coastal conference playoffs before bowing out to Powell River.
The Bulldogs were one-for-eight against the Grizz last year. The Dogs lone win (4-3) came at home in January and their worst defeat (7-2) came later that month. All other games were within a one-goal margin.
A different Grizzlies team is taking to the ice at the AV Multiplex on Friday though. The team is refitted with younger players after losing its top six players including its best defensive tandem.
“We lost a lot of fire power up front so we’re not as strong as this time last year, but I think we’ll get better as the season goes on,” Gervais said.
Goaltending and defense on the back end are Grizz strengths and make for a good match-up against the Dogs, who displayed speed, scoring as well as deft defense of their own against Coquitlam.
Special teams play will be key in the game against the Bulldogs.
“If you’re not 30 per cent on the power play and 80 per cent on the penalty kill then you’re going to have a tough time winning games in this league,” Gervais said.
“We’ll have to come out hard, weather their storm and play consistently good defensive hockey to be successful.”