By Steve Smith
The Grizzlies came out hard with early chances and nice passing from the Lucas Blinkhorn/Faiz Khan/Luke Richardson line. (Richardson had two breakaways alone in the first). One should have been called for interference, but was let go. The Leafs had two early, minor penalties, but the Grizz were unable to capitalize with few shots getting through on the power plays.
Staggering hits from Ben Bula and Brad Irving were seconds apart and set the tone early, while Dayton Martens was ready to eat some Leaf salad. The first goal of the period came with Jakob Reichert redeeming himself after getting a penalty. ‘Tiny’ stepped out of the box, received a stretch pass from Faiz Khan, took a sacrificial hit to feather the pass over to a streaking Luke Richardson. ‘Richie’ zoomed toward the net and Leaf’s goalie, Billy Faust, stonewalled him. Reichert steamed in and ran over the Leafs defender and Faust as the puck, with a mind of its own, squeaked across the line, much to the enjoyment of the crowd of 550 fans.
A much harder-hitting period saw the Grizz slightly on their heels with Nelson applying an aggressive forecheck. Grizz Captain Blinkhorn was assessed a minor penalty and on the ensuing power play, Nelson Leafs’ defender Tyler Parfeniuk drilled a howitzer from the point that Grizz ‘tender Andrew Parent didn’t have much of a chance stopping with all the bodies in front.
The Leafs were able to slide another past Parent on a cross-crease feed slammed in by Michael Spring to the right of Parent . Undoubtedly, Parent was the best Grizzlies’ player in this period. He made numerous saves including the save of the year on a desperation dive, without his stick. Faiz Khan took off on a return rush off that play; and actually the Grizz had a few spectacular opportunities, but were unable to tie it up. With the score 2-1 for the Leafs and shots on goal 11- 8 for the Leafs, a huge third period was necessary.
One and a half minutes into the third, some hard work by Khan and Richardson kept the play alive in Leafs’ territory. Rookie Brendan Burge was able to grab the loose puck and fired a snapshot that fooled Faust and tied the game at 2-2.
End- to-end action saw Parent make another mind-boggling glove save as he laid sprawled out in the splits. Faiz Khan put on a one-man show at the 11-minute mark; dangling into the Leafs’ zone, outlasting their defenders, and fired a strong backhander at the net. It trickled in to give the Grizzlies the lead. The battle was mainly in the Leafs’ zone with the Grizz choking up passing lanes, until the Leafs made a last desperation push. Dayton Martens turned the tide, clearing the zone and then embarrassed Bennett Hambrook by letting him punch him in the head. Martens then imprinted Hambrooks’ face into the ice. That pretty well encapsulated the whole game.
The Grizz held on to take to win with a final score of 3-2. The Grizz are now up 3 -1 in the series with Game 5, the possible series clincher, held in Nelson on Saturday. If you want to go, call Cherryl Fry who’s organizing a fan bus at 837-9462.
Coach Mick stated after the game, “There were some nail-biting moments there, but good teams find a way to win. We had a good chat in between the second and third and laid it out for the team. This was their whole season on the line and I’m proud of how they stood behind each other.”
Catch your Grizzlies’ action on KIJHL.ca if you can’t go. For this being the last possible game in the Forum, it was awesome. The crowd was spirited and we wish you the best of luck in Nelson, boys! Bring the banner home.