Nanaimo forward Tristan Crozier gets sandwiched between Victoria Grizzlies players Timothy Friedmann

UPDATE: Grizzlies hold off Clippers, win BCHL series in five games

Victoria will take on Powell River in the next round of the Fred Page Cup playoffs

Not that he had any detractors, but Jake Stevens put an exclamation point on his naming last week as the B.C. Hockey League’s top defenceman by scoring three times to lead the Victoria Grizzlies to a series-clinching 4-2 win over the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday in Colwood.

“I just seemed to get a lot of space out there today, kept seeming to find lanes,” said the Napierville, Illinois native, who joked that he had never previously scored a hat trick in hockey.

With Stevens scoring an even-strength goal in the first period, then adding a power play marker and a shorthanded goal in the second, the Grizzlies built a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes and looked ready to cruise into the next round of the playoffs.

But the Clippers flipped things around in the third, outshooting the Grizzlies 17-6 and scoring twice to make it close. Jake Harris scored just 2:05 in, then team captain Spencer Hewson cut the gap to 3-2, scoring a power play goal with just over three minutes left.

The Grizzlies settled down and protected the puck for the final few minutes, leading to Jamie Rome’s empty net goal in the dying seconds that sealed the victory and wrapped up a 4-1 series win in the Island Division semifinal.

The Grizzlies advanced to meet the Powell River Kings in the Island final, which gets underway next week with games 1 and 2 at The Q Centre.

Putting away the Clippers proved difficult again, as it was all series, Stevens said.

“Their coach definitely doesn’t let them give up, they were playing for their season right there,” he said. “I was scared after they got that second one, but just happy that we could win. Towards the last couple of minutes, we really started to buckle down there and just play and protect the lead.”

Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon admitted his team wasn’t as sharp in the third period.

“We started to change our game a little bit and get a little too defensive, and they were getting pucks in on us,” he said. “We made a few errors in the third, but were able to pull it out. So we’re happy; if we were told we’d win in five, we’d take it.”

Didmon agreed with Stevens about the grittiness of the Clippers in Friday’s game and throughout the series.

“I saw a team that didn’t want to go down. The hardest thing to do is to put a hockey team down and end their season,” he said.

He gave special kudos to Nanaimo defenceman Sean Buchanan, a Juan de Fuca minor hockey product who led the Clippers by example in the series, stepping up to score twice in the five games and playing solid defensively.

“He just led that team all week; he’s a 20-year-old and that was his last game, but this dressing room has a ton of respect for him. The team never quit and Sean was a big part of that,” Didmon said.

Over in the quiet Clippers dressing room area, a dejected Buchanan noted that both teams were playing good hockey come playoff time.

“We just had a lot of injuries during the season and some tough bounces, but we had everyone back for playoffs and it was just a bunch of one-goal games, it’s just inches,” he said.

Falling behind early gave the Clippers an uphill battle, but he felt good about the way the team didn’t go down without a fight.

“That’s kind of how we win, we forecheck hard, play hard, but it took us a while to get going. Unfortunately, I guess we just played the third period. We finished hard, so that’s good. I don’t think you make playoffs by giving up.”

Matthew Galajda made 25 saves for the win, while Nanaimo’s Evan DeBrouwer kicked out 33 shots in a solid effort. Cody Van Lierop tallied three assists for the Grizzlies.

The Kings will enter the second round with a little more rest than the Grizzlies, having swept the Cowichan Valley Capitals four straight in the other Island semifinal. A 4-3 win Wednesday night in Duncan gave Powell River the series victory.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Youth in care advocate for change

New youth advisory committee gets to work in Nanaimo

Two cars collide at Enterprise Way intersection

Accident happened Wednesday, April 25, just before 8:15 p.m. on the old Island Highway

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: City’s handling of NRE is reason for outrage

Who would have thought council could assume that allowing for the demise of the NRE was an option?

Unmarked police SUV with lights and siren on crashes at parkway intersection

Sport-utility vehicle and crossover collide at Aulds Road and Nanaimo Parkway

UPDATED: Search operation begins for missing Nanaimo man

Nanaimo Search and Rescue has set up operations at Westwood Lake in effort to find Lionel Cayer

Unmarked police SUV with lights and siren on crashes at parkway intersection

Sport-utility vehicle and crossover collide at Aulds Road and Nanaimo Parkway

Arrests made after pickup collides with two unmarked police cars in Yellow Point

Two men facing numerous charges after allegedly fleeing scene

City council won’t accept more than a two-per-cent tax increase

Financial plan amendment bylaw fails on first reading in 5-4 vote

City of Nanaimo staff busy with flurry of FOI requests

City clerk says municipality on track to receive 600 freedom of information requests in 2018

Traffic routes shuffled as roadwork continues

Drive with caution through city roadwork zones or find alternative routes to avoid delays

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Homelessness isn’t a choice for people

I am a woman in my 60s who recently found myself homeless, says letter writer

Spirit of BookFest extended to Nanaimo’s school libraries

Participating authors and illustrators donate books

Nanaimo buses first to get new technology

NextRide technology will help riders pinpoint where buses are and predicted arrival times

WATCH: Officers recognized at 10th anniversary of anti-impaired driving program

Alexa’s Team has grown from 26 members in 2008 to the current 2,400

Most Read