The Revelstoke Grizzlies feel they have something to prove against the Chase Heat after only beating them once in eight games in the regular season.
When they face off in game one of the first round of the KIJHL playoffs in Chase on Friday, they plan on bringing a physical game against their rivals.
“We’re pretty confident, despite our record against them,” said captain Tyler Chavez Leech. “We know we can play with them. I think if we take a full group effort and play the body, we’ll be all over them.”
Revelstoke went 1-6-1 against Chase this season and finished 21 points behind them in the standings. The last game between the two teams ended in ugliness, with a mini brawl on the ice and the coaches exchanging words.
Despite the results on the ice, the Grizzlies are feeling confident. “They’re a strong team but I think if we bring it every time we can compete,” said Ullar Wiatzka, who was voted the team’s Fan Favourite this season. “We don’t get the bounces all the time but I think when we’re on, we’re one of the best teams in the league. But we’re not always on.”
The Grizzlies finished their season with a split of games last weekend. On Friday, they lost 5-3 to the 100 Mile House Wranglers at home despite outshooting them 55-47. Raphael Bassot, Chavez Leech and Bradley Newans scored for the Grizzlies in the loss.
On Saturday, Revelstoke finished the regular season with a 3-2 win over the Sicamous Eagles on the road. David Lenzin scored the game winning goal, while Austin Thorne and Bassot also scored.
To beat Chase, Revelstoke will have to shut down Chase’s offense, which is led by Michael Fidanza, who posted 66 points, good for fifth in the league. He’s supported by Josh Bourne, who recorded 57 points, good for 10th in the league. The Heat have six players who finished with more than 40 points and three more who recorded close to one point per game.
In contrast, Revelstoke doesn’t have a single 40 point scorer and only Raphael Bassot was close to a point per game. Tyler Chavez Leech, with 22 goals, was the only Grizzly to top 20 goals. They will have to solve Chase’s starting goaltender Nic Bruyere, who finished fifth in the league with a .922 save percentage. If Chase does have a weakness, it’s that their defense gives up a lot of shots.
The Grizzlies feel playing physical will be the key to beating Chase. Goaltender Giovanni Sambrielaz, who is expected to start in game one, called some of their players soft.
“Once the playoffs start, things heat up a lot and guys that play softer, they don’t take a prominent role, so that’s a good key for us,” he said.
Chavez Leech echoed that, saying playing the body against their defense is important.
“They don’t have the biggest team and their defense is pretty weak,” he said. “If we play the body and finish our hits at the point, they’re going to be scared”
The Grizzlies are looking to do better than last year when they were in the same position as the fourth seed playing the number one. They wound up getting swept by the Wranglers, though two games went to overtime and a third was decided by only one goal.
“Last year our team didn’t compete as hard as we do this year,” said Wiatzka. “I think we didn’t want it as bad. At the end of the season we were pretty lackadaisical and this year we want it more.”
Coach Ryan Parent feels his team stacks up well against the Heat despite their poor record against them this year.
“They have a good hockey club, so we’re going to have to dig,” he said. “We’re going to have to be a lit bit greasy, more of a lunch pail club, and play more of a team-style game in order to win. Individualism only goes so far.”
The series starts with the first two games in Chase on Feb. 25 & 25. Games three and four are in Revelstoke on Feb. 27 & 28.