The Revelstoke Grizzlies remain in first place, even after suffering a loss to the arch-rival Kamloops Storm in front of a jam packed Forum Friday night.
The Grizzlies lost 3-0 to the Storm on Friday but rebounded to defeat the Summerland Steam 6-2 on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kamloops fell 4-1 to Kelowna and 4-3 in overtime to North Okanagan on Sunday.
The results mean Revelstoke and Kamloops are tied at 73 points each, with the Grizzlies holding one game in hand and two more wins.
Friday’s game was the most anticipated home game of the season. It was the first visit by Kamloops to the Forum since the line brawl in November. The fans new it, with around 1,000 people packing the Forum, some of them waiting in line until the second period to get in. They rang cow bells, heckled the Storm players and cheered on the Grizzlies all game long.
“The crowd size, our guys were very emotionally excited about that,” said coach Randy Quakenbush. “We were really charged to have that seventh man in the stands to give us motivation.”
The Storm did their best to quiet the crowd, with a goal from Josh Rasmussen less than three minutes into the game. Revelstoke had a chance to come back, with two late-period power plays but they were unable to capitalize.
“We were trying to take the puck to the net off the rush instead of just gaining the zone and setting up our power play,” said Quakenbush.
Instead, it was Kamloops that capitalized once more with a goal from Tyler Jackson early in the second period, just after the second Revelstoke power play ended. Colten DeFrias made it 3-0 Kamloops with a power play goal later in the period.
Revelstoke responded with a flurry of shots on Kamloops goalie Marcus Beesley but he turned aside all 30 pucks directed at him during the period. Austin Donaldson had a goal called back after the referee said it was knocked in with a high stick. Michael Roberts ringed a shot off the post.
In the third period, with the Grizzlies seeking to mount a comeback, the team instead found themselves short handed for several long stretches, including more than a minute down 5-on-3. Quakenbush said the penalties were something the team talked about after the game.
“I think late in the game we needed offense and we took the offensive opportunities away by taking unnecessary penalties,” he said.
The game finished 3-0 Kamloops.
“I don’t think we played bad, we just didn’t get the puck luck we need to get a goal in,” said Quakenbush.
On Saturday Revelstoke played host to the expansion Summerland Steam and came away with a 6-2 victory. Defenseman Andrew Standish had a goal and two assists and Jordan Bledsoe added three helpers in the win.
“We capitalized on our opportunities and we played with the lead – we’re a good team with the lead,” said Quakenbush.
The Grizzlies played the weekend without brothers Cole and Tye Sanford, defensemen Darnel St. Pierre and Brayden Seyl and goaltender Ethan Wood. Kyle Schwartz missed Saturday’s game. Quakenbush said all but Seyl were out as precautionary measures.
“If those were playoff games we couldAf have had those guys in the line up,” he said.
Cole Sanford, Schwartz and St. Pierre are expected back in the lineup this weekend, while Tye Sanford and Wood are expected to be back for the playoffs. Seyl is out for another 2-3 weeks with a knee injury.
The Grizzlies close out the season with three games this weekend. On Friday, the team plays host to the North Okanagan Knights, who are only four points back of the Grizzlies and still capable of passing them into first place. Revelstoke closes out the season with a home-and-home series against the Sicamous Eagles – away on Saturday and then at home on Sunday for an afternoon game.
“We’re happy that these are meaningful games,” said Quakenbush. “That’s been our whole agenda, that the regular season is about preparing for the playoffs.
“These are must win games for us if we want to keep our destiny in our control.”
The Revelstoke Grizzlies will be shaving their heads this weekend to raise money for former teammate Brandon Perger, who has been in a wheelchair after contracting spinal meningitis last summer.