With three games in the West Kootenays last weekend – one against the worst team in the league and two against the two best teams – it isn’t hugely surprising the Revelstoke Grizzlies came home with only one win.
What is surprising is how they went about doing it – losing to the lowly Grand Forks Border Bruins on Friday and beating the league-leading Nelson Leafs on Sunday, with a loss to the Castlegar Rebels in between.
“I’d say overall it was disappointing but I think it was a good little last lesson here of mostly what we need to do to be successful in the long run,” said head coach Kevin Kraus after returning home.
The Grizzlies ventured down to Grand Forks on Friday. Kraus said many players were battling a flu bug and it showed. After a good start, sparked by two first period goals by Austin Donaldson, the team fell flat, with the Border Bruins responding with five goals in the second period. Dylan Ossman scored twice for Revelstoke in the first half of the third period to get Revelstoke within one, but two goals by Grand Forks sent the Grizzlies back to the bus with a 7-4 loss.
“We underestimated them after the first period and came out really flat and they took advantage.” said Kraus. “You can’t just flip a switch and expect to turn it on. It was off and they played like that.”
On Saturday, the Grizzlies rolled into Castlegar where they were steamrolled by the Rebels. Castlegar jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, with a 19-5 advantage in shots. Brayden Beckley scored for Revelstoke four minutes into the second to make it 3-1, but Stuart Walton responded for Castlegar to make it 4-1. The teams traded goals in the third, with Donaldson scoring for Revelstoke, for a 5-2 final. Castlegar outshot Revelstoke 44-18.
“We took some dumb penalties in the first period and were down 3-0 right off the bat,” said Kraus. “We tried to dig ourselves out but unfortunately we don’t have a the firepower to come back against a team like Castlegar.”
On Sunday, the road trip continued in Nelson. This time, Revelstoke jumped out to the early 3-0 lead, with two goals from Jordan Holloway and another from Ossman in the first period. Unlike the Grand Forks game, this time Revelstoke was able to hold on. Brayden Beckley added a power play goal with 5:25 left in the third and Aaron Brandoli made 30 saves for the shutout.
“From puck drop to the buzzer it was a very good 60-minute game. We played very good defense and that’s what I’ve been stressing as late,” said Kraus. “After the game you could see it in their eyes they were proud of the way they played defensively.”
He said the win was a good little ego-boost for the team, especially coming off the loss to Grand Forks, which he said there was “no excuses” for.
“I’m happy with the way we did. I feel we’re getting rid of our inconsistencies, so that’s a positive note,” he said.
The Grizzlies are now in the stretch drive, with nine games left in the season. The team is in third pace in the Doug Birks division, eight points back of the Sicamous Eagles and 10 ahead of the Kamloops Storm. Kraus said he still has hopes of catching Sicamous for second place, and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a mini goal, whether it’s obtainable of not, just keep them pushing for that so they’re always chasing something,” he said.
Revelstoke plays another three games this weekend, hosting Grand Forks on Friday before hitting the road for games against Chase and Sicamous on Saturday and Sunday respectively.