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Series Preview: Kings face top-seed Grizzlies in Division Final

For the third year in a row, and the seventh time in the past nine years, the Powell River Kings are in the Island Division Final. This time they’ll face the top-seeded Victoria Grizzlies for the sixth time in franchise history. The Kings have won three of the five previous playoff series, most recently winning in six games in the 2014-15 semi final. In 2016-17, Powell River won five of eight against Victoria.

The Kings first round series against the Cowichan Valley Capitals may have been a sweep, but the games were anything but easy. A 4-2 win in game one had the Kings leading 2-1 heading into the third, before two goals in 5:10 allowed them to get the win.

In game two the Kings had a 3-0 early in the second before the Capitals came storming back to make it 3-2 after two. Tristan Mullin’s goal 3:40 into the third wound up being the game winner. Game three was more one sided as the Kings would blank Cowichan 5-0 on the road.

Game four was undoubtedly the most exciting for the Kings in the series. Trailing 2-0 just minutes into the second, the Kings would score three unanswered goals before the Capitals tied it up with five minutes left in the third. A power play to begin overtime allowed Jonny Evans to fire home the series winner 1:49 into the extra frame.

Victoria advanced to the Division Final with a five-game win over the Nanaimo Clippers. The Grizzlies blanked the Clippers 1-0 in game one, before dropping a 3-0 game as the series was evened up heading back to Nanaimo.

The Grizzlies took home ice advantage back with a 3-2 win in game three thanks to Justin Michaelian’s game winner just 30 seconds into the third period. Victoria defenceman Brett Stirling was given a four-game suspension for a blow to the head major with only eight seconds remaining in the third period, and will miss games one and two of the series against the Kings.

In game four, Grizzlies leading scorer Cole Pickup scored twice in the third period to lead Victoria to a 4-3 win. In the final game the BCHL defenceman of the year, Jake Stevens, scored a natural hat trick to give his Grizzlies a 3-0 lead after two, and they would add an empty net to eliminate Nanaimo with the 4-2 win.

Offense

The Kings scored 17 goals in their four-game sweep of Cowichan, 4.25 per game. Leading the way for the Kings was Jonny Evans who had a hat trick in game one and scored the series winner in overtime of game four. He also added two assists over the series. Mullin had a share as the Kings leading scorer in the series with three goals and three assists . Cam Donaldson and Carter Turnbull rounded out the top three with four points each.

Powell River went 5-for-18 on the power play against Cowichan, scoring when it mattered most in overtime in game four. Evans (x2), Ben Berard, Donaldson and Callum Volpe were the power-play goal scorers for the Kings in the opening round. Carmine Buono had three power-play assists. In the regular season series the Kings went 7/39 against Victoria.

Mullin led the Kings in scoring against Victoria during the regular season with four goals and four assists in eight games. Donaldson, Evans and Kyle Betts each had three goals and four assists.

Victoria’s offence combined for 15 goals over their five-game series against Nanaimo, an even three per game. The Grizzlies had three players tie for the team lead in scoring in their opening round; Cole Pickup, Jamie Rome and Jake Stevens all score three goals and added two assists.

The power play for Victoria connected four times on 15 opportunities against Nanaimo, a 26.7 per cent rate. Pickup had two of the four power-play markers, with Rome and Stevens getting the others. Stevens also scored a shorthanded goal. Victoria’s power play was 5/27 against Powell River this season.

The Grizzlies spread the offense around during the season series against the Kings; defenceman Stirling led his team with a goal and six assists in seven matches against Powell River. Fellow defenceman Cameron Thompson wasn’t far behind with four goals and two assists in eight games while Keyvan Mokhatari, Cody Van Lierop, Nathan Looysen and Tyler Welsh all scored five points.

Defence

The Kings defence scored just one goal in the opening round, that was Volpe’s power-play goal in game two. Overall, the core combined for nine points with Johan Steen, Buono, Andy Stevens and Jake Kohlhauser picking up assists.

The penalty kill for the Kings gave up three goals on just 14 shorthanded chances to Cowichan. Averaging less than four penalties a game, the Kings were able to stay quite disciplined, but Cowichan scored on their only power-play chance in game four.

The Grizzlies defence was lead all season by the BCHL’s defenceman of the year, Jake Stevens. He had the game of his career in game five against Nanaimo, scoring a hat trick in the 4-2 win. He was the only defenceman to find the back of the net during the series, though Van Lierop (four) and Dayne Finnson (three) recorded multiple assists.

Victoria’s penalty kill was a huge key to their success during the regular season as they finished second in the league at 83.8 per cent. Though it was only over five games, their penalty killing in the opening round killed off just 13 of 18 against Nanaimo, a 72.2 per cent rate.

Goaltending

Brian Wilson looked nearly as calm as could be in his first go around of junior hockey action for the Kings. The 20-year-old posted a 1.98 goals against average and a .927 save percentage in the four game sweep against the Capitals. His GAA is second in the league and save percentage third. The .927 save percentage is the exact same number he posted against Victoria during the regular season over six appearances (five starts). Wilson stopped 164 of 177 shots with a record of 3-2-0.

Matthew Galajda was a finalist for BCHL MVP this season, and while he didn’t win it’s fair to say he was the biggest factor in the Grizzlies strong regular season. Galajda posted a record of 25-10-0-2 during the regular season with a 2.33 GAA and .926 save percentage. Both numbers increased in the playoffs; his GAA sits first in the league at 1.80 and a save percentage of .943 after five games against Nanaimo. He played six games against Powell River in 2016-17, all starts, and posted a 3-3 record while stopping 195 of 210 shots (.929).

Season series

September 9 Powell River Kings 1 @ Victoria Grizzlies 2
October 1 Powell River Kings 3 vs Victoria Grizzlies 2 (2OT)
November 11 Powell River Kings 2 vs Victoria Grizzlies 5
November 12 Powell River Kings 5 vs Victoria Grizzlies 2
November 19 Powell River Kings 1 @ Victoria Grizzlies 4
January 14 Powell River Kings 4 @ Victoria Grizzlies 2
January 15 Powell River Kings 5 @ Victoria Grizzlies 3
February 8 Powell River Kings 4 vs Victoria Grizzlies 3

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