For the fourth straight game, the Grizzlies opened the scoring. For the third time in four games in the series, the Grizzlies also took the lead inside the first 90 seconds of play, this time a series-best 15 seconds from the opening puck drop as John Hawthorne misplayed a Carter Berger dump in from behind his net back out front to the bottom of the left circle where Kyle McGrath found it and put a cross-ice feed on the stick of Alex Newhook, who lifted it high over a desperation cross-ice dive by Hawthorne to make it 1-0 and stun the building. For a few minutes it looked like the Bulldogs had again found a way to not appear deflated despite the gut punch to start the game, but as the minutes wore on the Grizzlies kept pushing while the Bulldogs couldn't respond for any sustained stretches as John Hawthorne came up with at least half a dozen huge saves in tight to keep it a one-goal game. The most notable was on a wide-open Alex Newhook on a Victoria power play right in front, with Hawthorne staring him down to keep it out. The Grizzlies were initially awarded a goal by the Referee at the net and the goal judge who turned the light on just 10 seconds into a power play after the Bulldogs were whistled on a trip behind the Victoria net. It never looked in to me, as a shot from the top of the left circle appeared to hit near where the post and crossbar meet before bouncing cross-ice. It might be just my eyes, but the replay also appears to show the puck visible in front of the crossbar instead of behind it as it went across the net from right to left. The Referee immediately stopped play and signalled goal, and the goal light also went on. After an Officials conference, and a chat with the goal judge, the call was reversed and it remained 1-0 after one. Shots were 16-5 Grizzlies.
You make the call - upon looking at this morning, blowing it up and slowing it down, I'm sticking with my same assessment last night - if it's going in top corner under the bar, how does it go across the front of the crossbar and in front of the bar? Again, maybe it's my eyes, but my brain tells me if it's going in up and under the bar, it has to come down, not up as that would defy the laws of physics.
The Bulldogs didn't give up much through the opening minutes of the second, but it remained the same kind of game, as they were unable dictate the play but instead continued to chase it. They managed to hang around though, and as the period wore on they managed at least to get pucks in deep and force the Grizzlies defence to turn and retrieve pucks. The Bulldogs managed to get a few instances of attack time and suddenly got on the body and appeared to gain some momentum from it. The Bulldogs would tie the game, in crazy fashion, with a misplay by a Grizzlies defender behind their net on a pass from the left side behind the goal line by Kurtis Chapman. It has to be mentioned that the play wouldn't have happened if not for a waved off icing initially however, as Brady MacDonald stepped up at the attacking line and put his stick over the stick of Michael Hodge resulting in Hodge being unable to make a play on it. It wasn't waved off initially, with the front Linesman appearing to look at the back Linesman before then waving it off. That forced Chapman out of his net to play it, and Michael Hodge hustled to get in on the chase and stole it off a Victoria defender and then banked it off a retreating Chapman's left toe and JUST over the line, with the Referee in position to call it in. The Grizzlies withstood the momentum, and then a Bulldog penalty kill with Hawthorne being the busier of the two goalies with Jordan Guiney in alone, Kyle McGrath in alone the left wing, and Henri Scheifels also in alone in tight, with Hawthorne coming up with a trio of huge saves to keep it 1-1 after 40 minutes. Shots in the period were 17-14 Bulldogs, for a 30-22 Grizzlies edge after 40 minutes.
Victoria took the lead back early in the third period, as they kept a series of broken plays alive in the Bulldog zone resulting in Charlie Campbell finding Carter Berger off the bench in full flight, where he walked across the line down into the left faceoff circle tight on Hawthorne where he put a perfectly placed shot over the shoulder and under the bar short-side to make it 2-1 at 3:17 of the period, with Ryan Nolan also drawing an assist. The period wore on with the checking being tight and the intensity high as neither side was able to generate much in the way of a sustained attack of Grade A scoring chances. The Bulldogs did have a couple promising pucks around Chapman, one on a give and go deflection on the rush that saw a deflection hit him and stay out. The Bulldogs continued to push and pulled Hawthorne with under two minutes to play. They again got a couple pucks around Chapman but no glorious chances before the Grizzlies again worked the puck out of the zone on an odd-man rush on an empty net. Aaron Bohlinger would again make the initial save on Cameron Thompson, but it bounced across the ice to Henri Schreifels, who walked it into the empty net to make it 3-1 at 18:06 with Cameron Thompson drawing the lone assist. The Bulldogs would again pull Hawthorne and again for the second straight night with the Grizzlies appearing to have put the game away and the Bulldogs looking to be dead in the water, Ryan Nolan cracked the door open to offer them a second life. Despite the Grizzlies up two goals with under a minute to play, he couldn't resist laying a direct blow to the head of Mitchel Deelstra, giving the Bulldogs a power play chance, while getting a huge break from the Officials at the same time in that it was only called an elbowing penalty.
The Bulldogs would kick the door down and go down fighting, pulling Hawthorne and executing on the ensuing faceoff as Ryan Miotto won it back to Jackson Doucet, who fed Aaron Bohlinger at the top of the point. He perfectly teed up Marcus Walter outside the top of the right circle, where he blew a one-timer long side low inside the far post past the stick of Chapman to make it 3-2 with 33 seconds to play. It would be too little too late, with the Bulldogs creating one more Grade A scoring chance in the hashmarks that was painfully close, rattling off the feet of Mitchel Deelstra as he couldn't get a shot off before the Grizzlies cleared it to kill the final ten seconds and change off the clock.
Third period shots were 13-12 Bulldogs, for a game total of 42-35 Grizzlies. John Hawthorne put a final exclamation mark on his Junior career, being named 1st star while stopping 39 of 41 shots in giving the Bulldogs ever chance to win it. Kurtis Chapman earned the win. The Bulldogs went 1 for 4 on the power play, while the Grizzlies were 0 for 1.
To the lone graduating 20 year old John Hawthorne, and to the players departing for Scholarships in Marcus Walter, Ryan Miotto and Keaton Mastrodonato - best of luck in your careers down the road, and a huge thanks for your efforts in a Bulldog sweater night in and night out, and out and about in the community, and for your time when it came to interviews with me.
To the Grizzlies - best of luck on your playoff run. As I said on the air several times during the post game show - top to bottom, from Ownership to Office Staff to game night staff, Broadcasters, Videographers, support staff and Coaching staff especially Craig Didmon for our numerous interviews - I was treated with nothing but class and respect and professionalism and it's certainly appreciated.
There's too many to thank for now locally....that's what makes being in Port Alberni and involved with the Bulldogs in any facet and enjoyable privilege. To the players both departing and returning and unsure - thanks for your time in both interviews and in general on the road and at the rink. I'll miss it, and miss the connection that grows by just being involved like I am. To the Coaching Staff of Matt Hughes, Jeff Dubois for their time fielding my endless questions and queries and interviews win, lose or draw pre and post game and in between - I'm again fortunate to get to work in association with fantastic and passionate individuals that treat me better than anyone probably should. Jamie Amos and Scott Crema - the organization is better for having you involved in it, and we're lucky to have you both and you're efforts in your jobs along with your support and toleration of me are above and beyond what the high end of the standard is that the best of the best operate at.
Bruce MacDonald and Dan Tisserand - there isn't enough words to do justice at this late hour how amazing these two guys are. Their passion is unparalleled.
My wife and kids - I couldn't do it without them, and couldn't operate at the level I operate at without an off the scale level of support and understand and sacrifice at home, when I'm not there and I'm off in some rink in a corner of the province or some dark bus who knows where.
Broadcast sponsors and support staff and operations staff at The Peak - the unsung heroes behind the scenes for getting the sponsors, for making the broadcasts operate, that don't get to be on the fun side of being on air but doing all the important stuff that makes the fun stuff even possible. Thank you.
Bulldog sponsors, Board members, volunteers, game night staff, billets, and last but not least fans... NONE of the above is even a reality if there isn't people putting in thankless endless hours to make the wheels that run the team turn, that make the tickets be taken, and sold....that put the nets on, that keep the fans secure and safe and taken care of...that run the intermissions and all the other things I can't even think of. Charles for being the one man show he is, with a level of professionalism and pride and class that can't be matched. Brenda and Shelly for Game Sheets and line ups. Clock operators and penalty box staff. And a final note on the fans, of course there's no show if no one comes to watch and support it. You've fully earned your reputation across the league and province and beyond for being the best and most passionate city that supports there team anywhere.
To the players parents and the fans that donate to this blog, whether it's year after year, or in a year where a player spends part of his career here - it's very much appreciated almost makes me feel bad when they do it. Quite truthfully when the season gets long and the hours of sleep get short and the motivation required to go to the lengths I go gets low... I think of the responsibility I have of keeping you connected to your sons, brothers, grandsons, and your team - and that is where I find the motivation and passion to keep doing this the way I do it - a sincere thank you.
I'm checking out of the blog for a while - and trying to get some family and recovery time in.... back at work at 6am tomorrow... I'll miss alot... I'll miss almost all of it - but not weeknight games!